Book Review: Spies of the First World War: Under Cover for King and Kaiser


by James Morton

Kew, England: The National Archives/Dulles, Va.: International Publishers? Marketing, 2010. Pp. 240. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $36.00. ISBN: 1905615469

A chatty, very anecdotal, and amazingly populous account of the lives, works, and, often, deaths of numerous spies who served during the Great War.

Despite the title, British independent scholar Morton (Lola Montez,  The First Detective: The Life and Revolutionary Times of Vidocq, etc.) spreads a wide net, so that not only do we hear about spies from Britain and Germany, but also France, Russia, and some other countries.  Although the most famous “agents” -- even when of minimal importance -- are here, such as Mata Hari, Alfred Redl, Sidney Reilly, and Edith Cavell, Morton wisely treats them in less detail than the many more obscure people, both men and women, who also spied, some of them wholly inept, others surprisingly successful, and almost all of them very interesting.  While focused on the adventures of the actual agents, along the way Morton also gives us a look at contemporary social attitudes toward espionage and some amazingly amateur intelligence agencies.

An amusing, informative read for anyone interested in the Great War or espionage.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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