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Behind the Enigma


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The first authorised history of GCHQ, Britain's most secretive intelligence agency, written with unprecedented access to classified archives

About the Author

John Ferris is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is Professor of History at the University of Calgary, an Honorary Professor at the Department of International Politics of the University of Aberystwyth, and the Department of Law and Politics, Brunel University, and is an Associate Member of Nuffield College, Oxford. He has written or edited eight books and over 100 articles or chapters on diplomatic, intelligence, imperial, international, military and strategic history, and strategic studies. He lives in Calgary.


Fascinating ... [Ferris] has rescued several great women codebreakers from obscurity ... [Bletchley Park] has become embedded in national myth, but Ferris offers cool and balanced judgment ... This monumental work completes the authorised picture of a century of British intelligence, a testament to how far Britain has moved away from the cult of official secrecy -- Ben Macintyre * The Times *
In Ferris we have a shrewd and scrupulous historian ... The references to individual people at all levels of the service are many and illuminating ... Small details can bring a nod or a smile when one is reading ... GCHQ shows it is alert to the role of a security and defence agency in a modern democracy, and Ferris is to be congratulated for shedding so much light upon it -- Vin Arthey * Scotsman *
The book is at its best when sifting the role of signal intelligence (Sigint) in the Falklands war and other late imperial conflicts such as Indonesia and Palestine ... Comprehensive -- Luke Harding * Guardian *
GCHQ emerges from the shadows ... The story of the codebreakers is in fact a parallel history of the entire twentieth century ... There is intriguing detailing of the organisation's structure and systems ... Illuminating ... Absorbing -- Sinclair McKay * Spectator *
What happens when a tiny caste, so obsessed with keeping thing hidden that it speaks its own language of Ultra, Venona or Zircon, opens up? ... The answer - not withstanding significant restriction on what Ferris was allowed to publish - is a book of revelation ... Although he spent months sifting the papers in a high-security Cheltenham vault, [Ferris] does not lose sight of the big picture ... There is much in the book that illuminates other aspects of postwar history, from the struggle against the Jewish underground in Palestine to the 1982 Falklands conflict ... Today, [Ferris] argues, greater openness about intelligence gathering does not affect its relevance and power. His book is an example of this, and shows that the abandonment of Cold War levels of secrecy about GCHQ benefits us all -- Mark Urban * Sunday Times *
There is so much more to this secrecy-shrouded outfit, reveals Canadian historian John Ferris ... Fielding formidable research, Ferris tells a global tale of mathematics, engineering, data sciences and linguistics in the service of politics, diplomacy, war and security -- Andrew Robinson * Nature *
[Ferris] has written a deeply learned, comprehensive account of [GCHQ's] achievements and occasional failures -- Saul David * Daily Telegraph *
A fascinating tale ... It takes us with the codebreakers - mathematicians, linguists, teachers and philosophers and eccentrics - through the ages of radio, telegrams telephone and satellites to the digital present -- Philip Stephens * Financial Times *

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