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Secret Services

Robert Cecil, 4 April 1985

The Soviet Union and Terrorism 
by Roberta Goren.
Allen and Unwin, 232 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 04 327073 5
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The Great Purges 
by Isaac Deutscher and David King.
Blackwell, 176 pp., £12.50, November 1984, 0 631 13923 0
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SOE: The Special Operations Executive 1940-46 
by M.R.D. Foot.
BBC, 280 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 563 20193 2
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A History of the SAS Regiment 
by John Strawson.
Secker, 292 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 436 49992 4
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... Roberta Goren’s book should be compulsory reading in every course of peace studies. It explains in great detail how the USSR after Stalin’s death adapted to the nuclear age its strategy for achieving hegemony in a world dominated by the mass media and by weapons of mass destruction. It was a dual strategy, with an upper and a lower face. The brightly-lit upper face comprised the campaign for peace and disarmament, promoted by Communist ‘front’ organisations; the darkened, lower face involved the use of very different means to achieve the same end without provoking nuclear war ...

Great Internationalists

Rupert Cornwell, 2 February 1989

Philby: The Life and Views of the KGB Masterspy 
by Phillip Knightley.
Deutsch, 291 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 233 98360 0
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Mask of Treachery: The First Documented Dossier on Blunt, MI5 and Soviet Subversion 
by John Costello.
Collins, 761 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 00 217536 3
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A Divided Life: A Biography of Donald Maclean 
by Robert Cecil.
Bodley Head, 212 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 370 31129 9
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The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors 
by Gordon Brook-Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 303 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 297 79464 7
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... in 1968. Mr John Costello has produced Mask of Treachery, dealing with Blunt, while Mr Robert Cecil has written a biography of his former Foreign Office colleague Donald Maclean. To round things out, we have The Storm Birds, Gordon Brook-Shepherd’s study of the Soviet agents who have spied for – or defected to – the West since ...

Playboy’s Paperwork

Patrick Collinson: Historiography and Elizabethan politics, 11 November 1999

The World of the Favourite 
edited by J.H. Elliott and L.W.B. Brockliss.
Yale, 320 pp., £35, June 1999, 0 300 07644 4
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The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-97 
by Paul Hammer.
Cambridge, 468 pp., £45, June 1999, 0 521 43485 8
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... In English, ‘favourite’ was distanced, but only by a margin, from the French mignon. Sir Robert Naunton famously insisted that Elizabeth I’s ministers were ‘only favourites, not minions’. Was her first minister for much of the reign, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, such a favourite? In this volume, Paul Hammer ...

Round the (Next) Bend

Simon Adams: Sir Walter Ralegh, 6 July 2000

The Letters of Sir Walter Raleigh 
edited by Agnes Latham and Joyce Youings.
Exeter, 403 pp., £45, July 1999, 0 85989 527 0
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... Country than anyone else alive. Elsewhere her touch is not as sure as it might be. Describing Sir Robert Kerr (anglicised to Carr), James I’s favourite, who obtained Ralegh’s estate, as ‘a penniless Scotsman from Roxburghshire’ does not tell us a great deal and it misses the irony that Kerr was no more and no less than the Scottish equivalent of an ...

With What Joy We Write of the New Russian Government

Ferdinand Mount: Arthur Ransome, 24 September 2009

The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Roland Chambers.
Faber, 390 pp., £20, August 2009, 978 0 571 22261 2
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... a tangle, for example, about the names and titles of Foreign Office staff, lurching between Lord Cecil and Sir Robert Cecil for Lord Robert Cecil, Sir Esmie instead of Esme Howard, and Sir Cavendish Bentinck for Victor Cavendish-Bentinck. More seriously, Muggeridge is described ...

On a par with Nixon

Stephen Alford: Bad Queen Bess?, 17 November 2016

Bad Queen Bess? Libels, Secret Histories, and the Politics of Publicity in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I 
by Peter Lake.
Oxford, 497 pp., £35, January 2016, 978 0 19 875399 5
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Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years 
by John Guy.
Viking, 494 pp., £25, May 2016, 978 0 670 92225 3
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... was William Camden’s ponderous official history, then the influential courtier biographies by Robert Naunton, Froude’s probing critique, the rigorous constitutionalism of A.F. Pollard, and so on to John Neale, his pupils and colleagues, and beyond to Peter Lake and John Guy. So often studies of Elizabeth’s reign are impossible to disentangle ...

A Tall Stranger in Hoxton

John Bossy, 3 July 1997

The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 347 pp., £20, August 1996, 9780297813484
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... force. One of the Catholics, a rich gentleman from the Midlands and charismatic energumen called Robert Catesby, called a meeting on 20 May at the Duck and Drake, off the Strand, the lodgings of his cousin and the disciple, Thomas Wintour. Three other men were invited: Jack Wright, a swordsman friend of Catesby’s; Thomas Percy, Wright’s brother-in-law ...

Blame it on the Belgians

Hilary Mantel, 25 June 1992

The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe 
by Charles Nicholl.
Cape, 413 pp., £19.99, June 1992, 0 224 03100 7
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... provocateur Walsingham has put in place. ‘Farewell, sweet Robyn,’ writes Anthony Babington to Robert Poley, who was one of the men who stood by as Marlowe was stabbed. ‘Farewell, sweet Robyn, if as I take thee true to me.’ Poley was anything but true: and Babington, briefly strung-up but fully conscious, was shortly afterwards castrated and ...

People’s Friend

Michael Brock, 27 September 1990

Lord Grey: 1764-1845 
by E.A. Smith.
Oxford, 338 pp., £37.50, March 1990, 9780198201632
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... turns out to be an important asset. Grey complained bitterly when his father took a peerage; Lord Robert Cecil (as he then was) thought, when his elder brother’s death made him the heir to the marquessate, that his political career had been marred. Both hated leaving the Commons for the Lords; both benefited from the move. Salisbury would not have made ...

Don’t blame him

Jenny Wormald, 4 August 1994

Elizabeth I 
by Wallance MacCaffrey.
Edward Arnold, 528 pp., £25, September 1993, 9780340561676
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... concern for present popularity and an irresponsible indifference to the future. In the next reign, Cecil got the opprobrium for trying to right half a century of wrong; and it was all too easy for critical contemporaries – and future historians – to attribute the problem to his extravagant master. It is a good example of the way in which Elizabeth’s ...

Triumph of the Poshocracy

Susan Pedersen: Britain between the Wars, 8 August 2013

The British People and the League of Nations: Democracy, Citizenship and Internationalism, c.1918-45 
by Helen McCarthy.
Manchester, 282 pp., £65, November 2011, 978 0 7190 8616 8
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A Lark for the Sake of Their Country: The 1926 General Strike Volunteers in Folklore and Memory 
by Rachelle Hope Saltzman.
Manchester, 262 pp., £65, April 2012, 978 0 7190 7977 1
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... and so many like it was the wartime British naval blockade of Germany. And behind the policy, Lord Robert Cecil, the maverick son of the late Victorian Conservative prime minister Lord Salisbury, and minister for blockade in Lloyd George’s wartime government. The aim of the blockade was to damage Germany’s war effort but not Britain’s relations with ...

Zigzags

John Bossy, 4 April 1996

The New Oxford History of England. Vol. II: The Later Tudors 
by Penry Williams.
Oxford, 628 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 19 822820 1
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... Plot. Black was also much more generous to the dealings at the end of the reign between Sir Robert Cecil, Bishop Bancroft and a number of Catholic priests who attempted to solve their dilemma by a public affirmation of allegiance to the Crown in political matters. Meyer took these to be, if only symbolically, events of a similar kind of ...

Really Very Exhilarating

R.W. Johnson: Macmillan and the Guardsmen, 7 October 2004

The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made 
by Simon Ball.
HarperCollins, 456 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 00 257110 2
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... halt by his father’s death, struck down by a cricket ball. Cranborne, for his part, was a Cecil. His grandfather, Lord Salisbury, had, while prime minister, made his son Jim (Cranborne’s father) a minister – a piece of nepotism no other family would have contemplated. Cranborne was a lazy, hopeless student at Eton and Christ Church, where his set ...

Gold-Digger

Colin Burrow: Walter Ralegh, 8 March 2012

Sir Walter Ralegh in Life and Legend 
by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams.
Continuum, 378 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 1 4411 1209 5
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The Favourite: Sir Walter Ralegh in Elizabeth I’s Court 
by Mathew Lyons.
Constable, 354 pp., £14.99, March 2011, 978 1 84529 679 7
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... as Belphoebe, Diana, a goddess supreme, never fully forgave him. Ralegh wrote a letter to Sir Robert Cecil from the Tower which was probably intended to be shown to the queen in order to win back her favour. The letter displays Ralegh at his best and worst. It’s a monstrous blast of self-pity, tempered by his characteristic half-belief in his own ...

Attila the Hus

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 November 1982

Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley 1896-1933 
by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 28849 4
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... was relieved that she had chosen a reasonably promising young man whose family he knew. Mosley, Robert Cecil reported to Curzon, was ‘not in the first flight’ but had ‘a good future before him’. He was two years older than Cimmie; very dashing (though Curzon at once remarked on his ‘rather Jewish appearance’), and the youngest MP in the ...

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