Join the former head of MI6 and its in-house historian for a hugely original history of the interplay between spying and the entertainment industry, from Shakespeare to James Bond.
Throughout history, there has been a consistent crossover between show business and espionage, often producing some of the most extraordinary undercover agents, and occasionally leading to disastrous and dangerous failures. The fact that one relies on publicity and the other on secrecy might seem to rule out a successful symbiosis; but as both require high levels of creative thinking, improvisation, disguise and role-play, they inevitably attract some remarkably similar personalities.
Cambridge Professor and M15’s in-house historian Christopher Andrew has written the first history of the interplay between the two worlds.
In conversation with former head of M16 Richard Dearlove, he will take is back to the golden age of theatre and intelligence in the reign of Elizabeth I, where we meet the playwright and spy Christopher Marlowe. In the Restoration we encounter in Aphra Behn, the first professional female playwright and the first female spy to work for the British government. We visit Civil War America, Tsarist Russia and fin de siècle Paris where some writers, actors and entertainers become efficient and vital agents, while others are put under surveillance by the burgeoning intelligence services.
And as the story moves through the twentieth century and beyond, and the role of spying in word affairs becomes more central, showbiz provides essential cover for agents to gather information while hiding in plain sight. The astonishing array of those who were drafted into the intelligence services includes Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Noel Coward and Alexander Korda.
Don’t miss this unique exploration of the fascinating links between the intelligence services and show business.