Espionage secrets on display in UK

Espionage secrets on display in UK

Expo at Cambridge varsity examines art of spying from Biblical times to Cold War era

Espionage secrets on display in UK

A copy of Compton MacKenzie’s book 'Greek Memories' that is on display at the exhibition. The exhibition, titled ‘Under Covers: Documenting Spies’, will examine the art of espionage from Biblical times to the Cold War era.

It draws on personal archives, printed books, official publicity material, popular journals and specialist photographs and maps, mostly from the University Library’s own collections, to illustrate a few of the ways in which spies have been documented through the centuries.

University librarian Anne Jarvis said: “Under Covers brings together an astonishing variety of different kinds of material, all throwing light on the business of uncovering — and keeping — secrets”.

The exhibits range from a 12th-century manuscript recounting the story of King Alfred the Great entering a Danish camp disguised as a harpist to a Soviet-era map of East Anglia.

Underworld of spies

John Ker’s 18th-century ‘licence to spy’, granted by Queen Anne, shows that the underworld of spies was well-established long before James Bond’s ‘licence to kill’.
Other highlights include papers used by a Parliamentary Committee investigating the Atterbury Plot of the 1720s, a telegraph from the MI6 chief of the day confirming news of Rasputin’s murder, and letters to prime minister Stanley Baldwin from Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill, only declassified in 2007.

In the letter, dated February 1925, Churchill is incensed at being denied access to intercepted Japanese telegrams already seen by more junior personnel.

Churchill, then chancellor of the Exchequer, wrote to prime minister Baldwin: “How can I conduct the controversies on which the management of our finances depends, unless at least I have the same knowledge of secret state affairs freely accessible to the officials of the Admiralty? The words “monstrous” and “intolerable” leap readily to mind.”

A 1985 Soviet map of East Anglia shows English towns and cities in Cyrillic script. Maps of this sort were produced by the Soviet military for more than 50 years before, during, and after the Cold War.

Twentieth-century material includes a copy of Compton MacKenzie’s book “Greek Memories” that belonged to MI5 Deputy-Director Eric Holt-Wilson. The book resulted in MacKenzie being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act after he gave details of his time as MI6 station chief in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Cambridge Spies also feature with, among other items, student record cards for Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby and John Cairncross, and a 1933 copy of “The Granta” magazine with a mock interview with Donald Maclean which reveals his ability to take on different personae. The exhibition runs till July 3.

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