Robert Bruce Lockhart lived through and participated in some of the most important events of the twentieth century. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, he became the British government’s unofficial “Agent” in Russia, tasked with both befriending Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky and conspiring with MI6’s “Ace of Spies”, Sidney Reilly, to bring down their revolutionary regime. Following the spectacular failure of this brazen plot to destroy the world’s first Communist state, Lockhart continued to work in the shadows during the 1920s and 30s, facing down the other great ideological force of the age – Fascism. Together with a band of like-minded government officials, spies and journalists, Lockhart foresaw the danger of Mussolini and Hitler, and waged a war of words and ideas against them. This campaign culminated in 1942, when Lockhart was appointed head of the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) – a top secret organisation commissioned by Winston Churchill to use fake news, subversion and propaganda to take the fight for Europe’s hearts and minds to the Third Reich.
From the jungles of Malaysia to the snow-driven streets of Moscow, from the private clubs of Prague to the secret bunkers of Britain’s countryside, Lockhart’s story is one of scandals and subversion, bitter truths and cunning deceptions, scattered across an age of war, revolution and extremism. It is also the tale of a sometimes brilliant yet always flawed upstart, a gifted writer and notorious charmer with a penchant for wine, women and song who, as the press baron Lord Beaverbook put it, ‘could well have been prime minister’ if not for the grip these vices had on him. Drawn from years of research into private papers, top secret documents and the memoirs and diaries of those who knew him best, as well as the numerous works penned by Lockhart himself, Rogue Agent is the first biography of one of the most unconventional heroes of the world’s darkest hours.
James Crossland is a Reader in International History at Liverpool John Moores University and Co-Director of the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History. He has a broad interest in the history of political violence, intelligence, propaganda, subversion and the politics of warfare, and has authored three books – The Rise of Devils: Fear and the Origins of Modern Terrorism (MUP, 2023), War, Law and Humanity: The Campaign to Control Warfare, 1853-1914 (Bloomsbury, 2018) and Britain and the international Committee of the Red Cross, 1939-1945 (Palgrave, 2014).
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