Skip to Main Content

The Secret State

A History of Intelligence and Espionage

A ground-breaking history of intelligence—from its classical origins to the onset of the surveillance state in the digital age—that lifts the veil of secrecy from this clandestine world.

From the ancient Greek and Roman origins of human intelligence and its use in the Catholic church to Francis Walsingham's Elizabethan secret service to the birth of the surveillance state in today's digital hi-tech age, Colonel John Hughes-Wilson, author of the highly successful Military Intelligence Blunders, gives an extraordinarily broad and wide-reaching perspective on espionage and intelligence, providing an up-to-date analysis of its importance of intelligence and in the recent past.

Drawing upon a variety of sources, ranging from first-hand accounts to his own personal experience, Hughes-Wilson covers everything from undercover agents to photographic reconnaissance to today's much misunderstood cyber welfare. Authoritative and analytical, Hughes-Wilson searches for hard answers and scrutinizes why crucial intelligence is so often ignored, misunderstood, or spun by politicians and seasoned generals alike.

From yesterday's spies to tomorrow's cyber world, The Secret State is a fascinating and thought­-provoking history of this ever­-changing and ever­-important subject.

Colonel John Hughes-Wilson is one of Britain's leading military historians and lectures for a number of international, governmental, and academic organizations. Hugh-Wilson's previous works include Military Intelligence Blunders and A Brief History of the Cold War. He lives in Cyprus.

"Hughes-Wilson provides a proficient survey of intelligence uses and abuses."

– New York Review of Books

"Hughes-Wilson, a leading British authority on intelligence matters, defines and describes the ‘intelligence cycle’ while delivering a thematically organized account of intelligence in contemporary contexts."

– Publishers Weekly

"A solid overview of the importance of secret intelligence and case studies of successful and failed spying, from the earliest times to leaks by Edward Snowden and Al Jazeera. A vigorous survey with specific case studies and a useful bibliography for further study."

– Kirkus Reviews

"A sweeping history from the classical origins of intelligence work to modern times in the digital age. A powerful history that asks many hard questions in a wide-ranging survey packed with political, historical, and social analysis. It's a recommended pick not just for political studies readers; but for any interested in the intelligence community and its background."

– Midwest Book Review

"The author’s knowledge and passion for the subject is palpable, while his scrutiny and explanations make this a thoroughly enjoyable read."

– The Irish Examiner

"In this sweeping history, John Hughes-Wilson anatomizes the intelligence process and the evolution of covert methodologies and technologies that maintain (or disrupt) geopolitical balance. A deft tour of the shadow side of 'speaking truth to power'."

– Nature