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Reviews of The Hidden Hand

Lawrence Freedman in The Sunday Times 1 July 2001 >

Aldrich has certainly dug deep. The result is a masterly history of the British intelligence effort during the first two decades of the cold war, and its interaction with that of America. It is not only extraordinarily well researched and judicious, but also lively and full of fascinating detail … This is a story that needs to be told. Aldrich makes clear that, while these activities had more than their fair share of fruitcakes and adventurers, many of those involved believed that they were on the front line of freedom's defences.


Alan Judd in The Sunday Telegraph 1 July 2001 >

…a major contribution to the history of the second half of the 20th century … Subjects include early Anglo-US tensions over issues that might have made the Cold War hot, attitudes towards assassinations, Whitehall battles for control of the intelligence community, the bugging of embassies and offices, how defectors were treated in Moscow, the success of the Berlin Tunnel (and other tunnels, unidentified), CIA funding of the European Movement and the value of secret service in terms of its contribution to transparency.


George Walden in The Evening Standard 23 July 2001 >

From riveting case-histories of individual operations to the furious intrigues of the transatlantic intelligence community , from the unsung role of the low-level agent to the evolution of electronic espionage – everything is here … Aldrich has a gift for conveying a sense of living history, combing colourful detail of this or that episode with the grand strategies that drove the intelligence men.


Cal McCrystal in The Financial Times 1 July 2001 >

What makes Aldrich's book so delightful is its abundance of marvellous anecdote … Miles Copeland, the CIA's new station chief in Cairo at the time of the Suez crisis, had little time for US ambassadors and was a bit of a cowboy. As station chief in Syria in 1950 Copeland was blamed for a series of army coups that "eventually led to an increasingly pro-Soviet dictatorship". He was moved to Cairo after a wild party during which guns were fired through the ceiling. Indeed, an Aldrich sub-theme is the extent to which British and American secret agents frequently unnerved their own governments more than the regimes they were supposed to monitor subvert or liberate.


John Crossland in The Independent on Sunday 1 July 2001 >

The first full account of the shadowy war by proxy which dominated the post-1945 world. It is unauthorised history at its most incisive … In Aldrich's most dramatic discovery, the retiring Director of British Naval Intelligence disclosed to Churchill's government that the Americans "had gone ahead to prepare for an inevitable clash of arms with the Soviet Union fixed for mid or late 1952". Vice Admiral Eric Longley-Cook warned, "it is doubtful whether, in year's time the US will be able to control the Frankenstein's monster which they are creating. There is a definitive risk of the USA becoming involved in a preventative war against Russia, however firmly their Nato allies object".


Donald Cameron Watt in The Literary Review July 2001 >

Intelligence, subversion, hidden propaganda, counter-intelligence, and deception - all are different aspects of the same game. And intelligence nowadays includes not only the human intelligence-gatherer, but also the photographic; the interception and breaking of the communications systems of other governments and agencies; and the reading of electronic signals by which missiles can be guided. Where once the spy crouched behind a bush with a deerstalker hat, now he listens to electronic signals, reads satellite photographs and analyses traces left on infrared photographs … It is a truly remarkable work, showing how the culture of secret warfare rose and then waned after reaching its peak in the early Sixties.


Raymond Seitz in The Times 4 July 2001 >

… a superlative record of Anglo-American intelligence collection, co-operation and competition from the final days of the Second World war to the mid 1960s … His conclusion is that the history of the Cold War is like an iceberg, with the bulky mass submerged in the deep. The whole truth may never be known but this book throws a strong light.


Max Hastings in The Sunday Telegraph ‘Books of the Year’ 2 December 2001 >

The Hidden Hand by Richard Aldrich (John Murray) is as good an account of Cold War Intelligence between 1945 and 1962 as we are likely to get for some time.


John Booth in Tribune 11 January 2002 >

Some books are so good they make the imagination leap. The Hidden Hand, Richard Aldrich’s meticulously factual account of British and American spookery … is hugely impressive. Amid the flim flam and froth that passes for so much political writing this is the real stuff.


David Ellwood in History Today May 2002 >

Aldrich’s book is an outstanding achievement of research, synthesis and clear exposition. There are no major aspects of the Cold War, of British external policy and Anglo-American relations down to the end of Empire which remain unchanged by his findings.


Raymond Garthoff in Political Science Quarterly Summer 2002>

This is a substantial work in content as well as size. The role of intelligence activities and assessments in the cold war is only beginning to get the attention it deserves, and this detailed volume makes a real contribution … Among the conclusions, the author finds the "hidden hand" of Anglo-American co-operation in the field of intelligence, and especially the British contribution, to have been a major factor in the development and maintenance of the overall special relationship between the two counties…

The particular value of Aldrich's study is the detailed review of intelligence activities based on the available record. The record is, needless to note, incomplete, but Aldrich has mined declassified UK and US materials assiduously, as well as other archival sources, personals papers and published accounts. Among other things he presents the first extensive account of the covert American funding of the movement for European unity…

The hidden hand of covert intelligence operations represented a crucial dimension of policy and policy implementation for waging the cold war below the threshold of real war. Aldrich's contribution is in showing in impressive detail how the United Kingdom and the United States, mainly in collaboration, worked to carry out that policy.



Richard Crockatt in International Affairs Autumn 2002 >

This is a monumental book, not only in size but in intellectual scope and achievement. Those (including the present reviewer) who have written Cold War history without reference to secret intelligence will have no excuse for doing so in the future. There remain questions about precisely what weight to ascribe to secret intelligence in the larger scheme of things, but Aldrich makes an unassailable case for regarding it as integral to the history of the Cold War in both the domestic and foreign spheres. He is one of a small group of historians who are helping to re-write the history of the Cold War for the point of view of intelligence. Indeed on of Aldrich's most striking conclusions is that the secret services 'accelerated the transformation of the Cold War from an old-fashioned conflict between states into a subversive conflict between societies'.

The hidden hand covers the 'golden age' of secret intelligence from 1941 until around 1963 at which point a rash of spy scandals led to an 'era of exposure' which complicated the life of intelligence services. Aldrich covers all the fields of intelligence - human, signals, photographic, electronic, etc. - and has an enviable grasp of the organizational complexities … Undoubtedly, the most important conclusion Aldrich draws is that it was 'intelligence power' which allowed Britain to 'punch above its weight' in the international arena after 1945. Indeed the special relationship owed more to intelligence than any other field, with the possible exception of atomic co-operation.


Peter Jackson in Twentieth Century British History Autumn 2003 >

The best writing about intelligence analyses secret services as both tools of policy and political agents in their won right. Richard Aldrich does this admirably in both Intelligence and the War Against Japan and The Hidden Hand which make a major contribution to our understanding of both the role of intelligence in British and American policy since 1939 and the nature of the cold war. Aldrich has set a new standard of excellence for historians interested in the study of intelligence and international relations.

For Aldrich, intelligence is much more than a mere tool of policy, it is a window into the aims and assumptions that shape policy making at every level. Both books demonstrate the degree to which intelligence not only informed policy, but also played an increasing role in shaping the character of international relations in the second half of the twentieth century … The result is a very sophisticated analytical approach that will push the study of intelligence forward as an important component in the political and cultural history of twentieth century international relations.


Jerome Elie in the SAIS Review Spring 2004 >

James Bond symbolizes the popular appeal of any story related to the intelligence services. Yet, until recently, this interest had not been matched by academic publications. As Professor Richard J. Aldrich rightly asserts in his book, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and the Cold War Secret Intelligence, "only a minority of scholars has yet attempted to integrate secret service with international history." By addressing this issue in the context of Anglo-American relations from June 1941 to the end of 1963, this brilliant book fills two major gaps of international relations historiography. Indeed being one of the first serious and well-documented scholarly assessments of the impact of secret services on the Cold war, this study is also a major contribution to the history of the so-called "Special Relationship". By shedding light on "the 'Missing Dimension' of history", Aldrich also focuses on an understudied themes of Anglo-American relations - the intelligence field.