The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence
Richard J. Aldrich

The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence

After 1945, Western capitals were dominated by the fear of a "Nuclear Pearl Harbor". Atomic bombs, new biological and chemical weapons, and ballistic rockets such as the V-2 against which there was no defence, combined to create an atmosphere of deep menace. The urgent need for better warning systems allowed the Western intelligence community to grow to unprecedented size and power. Meanwhile, under the precarious ceiling of nuclear deterrence, London, Washington, Moscow and Peking all sought new ways to play out their struggle. For these too they turned to the secret services, who developed further the clandestine operations evolved in the Second World War, such as underground armies, radio warfare, economic destabilization and cultural subversion.

"Hidden hand" conflict, though, proved nothing less than explosive. Bitter arguments over provocation threatened to tear Western capitals apart. By 1952 the CIA was accusing the British SIS of "fouling up their operations" in the Eastern Bloc. Meanwhile, many in London had come to regard the Americans as bent on provoking a Third World War. Documents sent to Churchill and Attlee, revealed for the first time in this book, show that British intelligence chiefs believed the American military had set a target date for a war in which Britain would be obliterated. The key aim for Britain was not to contain the Soviet Union but rather to prevent a hot war provoked by the US Air Force and the CIA.

Book Details:

  • Author: Richard J. Aldrich
  • Published Year: 2001
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: John Murray
    • US: Overlook
    • UK: Duckworth

Richard J. Aldrich

Richard J. Aldrich was born in 1961 and was educated at the universities of Manchester, Aberdeen and Cambridge. He has held a Fulbright fellowship at Georgetown University in Washington DC and is currently visiting Canberra and Ottawa as a Leverhulme fellow. He teaches international security at the University of Warwick and is Director of the Institute of Advanced Study. He is the author of several books including The Hidden Hand: Britain American and Cold War Secret Intelligence which won the Donner Book prize in 2002 and was shortlisted for the Westminster Medal. More recently he has auth...
More about Richard J. Aldrich

Book Reviews

  • "The Hidden Hand by Richard J. Aldrich is as good an account of Cold War Intelligence between 1945 and 1962 as we are likely to get for some time."
    Max Hastings, The Sunday Telegraph 'Books of the Year'
  • "What makes Aldrich's book so delightful is its abundance of marvellous anecdote ."
    Cal McCrystal, The Financial Times
  • "Aldrich has certainly dug deep. The result is a masterly history of the British intelligence effort."
    Lawrence Freedman, The Sunday Times
  • "...a major contribution to the history of the second half of the 20th century."
    Alan Judd, The Sunday Telegraph
  • "The first full account of the shadowy war by proxy ... unauthorised history at its most incisive."
    John Crossland, The Independent on Sunday
  • "...a superlative record of Anglo-American intelligence collection, co-operation and competition."
    Raymond Seitz, The Times
  • "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."
    George Walden in The Evening Standard
  • "Riveting and essential reading not only for intelligence specialists but for everyone interested in the Cold War and in British-American relations."
    Christopher Andrew
  • "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."
    Literary Review
  • "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."
    Tribune
  • "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."
    History Today