British Writers and MI5 Surveillance, 1930-1960

Overview

Britain's domestic intelligence agencies maintained secret records on many left-wing writers after the First World War. Drawing on recently declassified material from 1930 to 1960, this revealing study examines how leading figures in Britain's literary scene fell under MI5 and Special Branch surveillance, and the surprising extent to which writers became willing participants in the world of covert intelligence and propaganda. Chapters devoted to W. H. Auden and his associates, theatre pioneers Ewan MacColl and ...

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British Writers and MI5 Surveillance, 1930-1960

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Overview

Britain's domestic intelligence agencies maintained secret records on many left-wing writers after the First World War. Drawing on recently declassified material from 1930 to 1960, this revealing study examines how leading figures in Britain's literary scene fell under MI5 and Special Branch surveillance, and the surprising extent to which writers became willing participants in the world of covert intelligence and propaganda. Chapters devoted to W. H. Auden and his associates, theatre pioneers Ewan MacColl and Joan Littlewood, George Orwell, and others describe methods used by MI5 to gather information through and about the cultural world. The book also investigates how these covert agencies assessed the political influence of such writers, providing scholars and students of twentieth-century British literature an unprecedented account of clandestine operations in popular culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'… a sober and scholarly attempt to tell the story straight.' Sam Leith, The Guardian

'Admirable scholarship …' New Statesman

'Groundbreaking …' Times Higher Education Supplement

'A good story …' Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107030824
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 1/31/2013
  • Pages: 230
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

James Smith is Lecturer in English Literature at Durham University. Author of a critical study on the work of Terry Eagleton (2008), he has published widely in journals such as New Theatre Quarterly and Literature and History. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2007.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations; Preface; 1. Intellectual and intelligence contexts, 1930–60; 2. The Auden circle; 3. Ewan MacColl, Joan Littlewood, and Theatre Workshop; 4. Arthur Koestler and George Orwell; Epilogue; Notes.

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