Book Review: The Defense of the Realm, The Authorized History of MI5, by Christopher Andrew

Defense of the realm book cover

The first thing I have to say about this book is that it is huge! And I mean in physical dimension. Its not the kind of book one takes around to read on the bus.

The subject is very interesting, it reports the evolution of the British secret services, from the very beginning when it was barely regarded by higher authorities; through a gradual increase in importance given by the government and awareness from the public; culminating in the current state of affairs, being one of the most well-known and referenced secret services in the World.

The glamour of the James Bound movies obviously doesn’t correspond entirely to the reality, however the book describes very interesting peculiar cases that happened in the past, some of them quite humorous, even.

Given the delicate subject of the book, the author is very selective on the kind of information he provides, so one can only wonder what amazing stories might exist, to which we, the common folk, would never have access to, probably for our own sake and security.

One of the narratives in the book that particularly caught my attention was the one referring to the ‘amazing 5’, which had all been recruited from Cambridge university (being the author himself a Cambridge scholar). Since I have moved to Cambridge a couple of weeks ago and I am still exploring the wonders of this city, I can’t help but try to imagine what characters and events might have passed on this streets…or still pass, perhaps…

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