Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Historical Dictionary of World War I Intelligence

Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Historical Dictionary of World War I Intelligence

Article excerpt

Historical Dictionary of World War I Intelligence. Nigel West. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014. hardcover, $120.

Readers interested in strategic intelligence and espionage during the Great War will find Nigel West's new historical dictionary an extremely useful source. The author teaches intelligence history at the Virginia-based Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies and also serves as European editor for the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence. West, who authored or coauthored ten historical dictionaries for Rowman & Littlefield's series on intelligence and counterintelligence, provides over 400 entries that focus on the leaders, spies and key intelligence organizations of First World War adversaries.

There are a number of true gems in this collection of entries. In his article on Mata Hari, the well-known spy whose true name was Margaretha MacLeod, West publishes the surviving transcript of a London Police interrogation from 1916. The French military later convicted MacLeod of espionage and executed her in October 1917. In a later article on questionnaires, the author explains how German spy handlers provided their agents with extensive surveys and reproduces a detailed example from available archival sources. A nine-page article on W. Somerset Maugham, a British writer, explains the activities of this agent who served the British and Americans in Switzerland during the war. In his appendix, West provides photos of the prewar "Special War List," a roster of espionage suspects that British intelligence agencies maintained in preparation for war with Germany. One section of the document is entitled "List of Persons to be Arrested in Case of War." Again, these are superb entries offering valuable insights for the interested reader.

West expertly provides an overview of intelligence organizations from the major powers. His rundown of British police and military intelligence directorates, such as Special Branch, MI5, and MI1(c), is especially useful for both students and faculty who study the First World War. Military, naval, and diplomatic intelligence organizations of Germany, the United States, France, and Russia receive less detailed, though adequate, attention. …

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