The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany, 1933-1939

Overview

How realistically did the British government assess the threat from Nazi Germany during the 1930s? How accurate was British intelligence's understanding of Hitler's aims and Germany's military and industrial capabilities? In The Ultimate Enemy, Wesley K. Wark catalogues the many misperceptions about Nazi Germany that were often fostered by British intelligence.

This book, the product of exhaustive archival research, first looks at the goals of British intelligence in the 1930s. ...

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Overview

How realistically did the British government assess the threat from Nazi Germany during the 1930s? How accurate was British intelligence's understanding of Hitler's aims and Germany's military and industrial capabilities? In The Ultimate Enemy, Wesley K. Wark catalogues the many misperceptions about Nazi Germany that were often fostered by British intelligence.

This book, the product of exhaustive archival research, first looks at the goals of British intelligence in the 1930s. He explains the various views of German power held by the principal Whitehall authorities—including the various military intelligence directorates and the semi-clandestine Industrial Intelligence Centre—and he describes the efforts of senior officials to fit their perceptions of German power into the framework of British military and diplomatic policy. Identifying the four phases through which the British intelligence effort evolved, he assesses its shortcomings and successes, and he calls into question the underlying premises of British intelligence doctrine.

Wark shows that faulty intelligence assessments were crucial in shaping the British policy of appeasement up to the outbreak of World War II. His book offers a new perspective on British policy in the interwar period and also contributes a fascinating case study in the workings of intelligence services during a period of worldwide crisis.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Ultimate Enemy is quite indispensable reading for any understanding of British policy in the six years before the Second World War."—International History Review

"An incisive study of how the British government machine became aware of the size and nature of the threat from Hitler's Germany that lead to war in September 1939."—Albion

"A thoroughly researched, powerful, and important study about the role of intelligence in British rearmament and diplomatic policy during the 1930s. The tale Wark tells is a depressing but familiar one. The intelligence community in London was divided by bureaucratic frontiers and its vision distorted by its own preconceptions. Crucial policymakers, such as Neville Chamberlain, used intelligence merely to buttress their own preconceived notions, discarding whatever was inconvenient. British intelligence agencies first badly underestimated German rearmament, then wildly overestimated it; on the eve of war, the British swung about again and decided, largely as a matter of faith, that they would win. All the ingredients of classic intelligence failures are described in Wark's account, which concludes that intelligence, even when accurate, will rarely defeat the tendency to believe what one wants to believe."—Choice

"The Ultimate Enemy is unusually rich in its contents and will certainly become essential reading for those interested in British appeasement policies. But Wark's reading of the major intelligence failures of this period has a wider applicability."—Times Literary Supplement

"A first-rate study on the role of intelligence assessments in Britain's foreign and defense policies during the 1930s. By examining a mass of unpublished material in archival collections, Wark has skillfully reconstructed the intelligence pictures presented to British decision makers on German rearmament and intentions."—Orbis

"This work is a penetrating analysis of the role of British intelligence services in assessing the threat posed by Hitler's Third Reich during the 1930s, and the accuracy of their evaluations of Germany's aims and capabilities."—Cryptologia

"The Ultimate Enemy is clearly, often cleverly and brilliantly, written. It has wit and panache. And, most of all, the author brings a massive intelligence and industry to bear on one of the most important topics of interwar history."—Paul M. Kennedy, Yale University

"Wesley K. Wark provides a very lucid and interesting analysis of the problems of intelligence assessment and points to some of the preconceptions that prevented Whitehall from better understanding Nazi Germany's strength. This is a clear, original, and convincing study of a new and important topic."—Christopher Andrew, University of Cambridge

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