Historian who explored MI6 secrets

Historians in the News

Keith Jeffery, author of the first – and possibly only – official history of MI6, said today he had made a "Faustian pact" that had in some cases "overridden the imperatives of historical scholarship". But he was given an offer he could not refuse – "the holy grail of the British archives".

Those archives are records of MI6 operations from 1909, when Britain's Secret Intelligence Service was set up, to 1949, when the history stops. MI6 said today that its archives, unlike those of the domestic Security Service, MI5, and the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE) would remain closed to the public. "As a historian I regret they won't release the documents," Jeffery, professor of British history at Queen's University Belfast, said.

On grounds of national security, he was asked not to include some material, notably the names of MI6 officers, even though they had previously been identified in what he describes as reliable and scholarly works. Immense quantities of MI6 documents were destroyed, mainly because of lack of space in its offices, Jeffery said. "I have found no evidence that destruction was carried out casually or maliciously, as some sort of cover-up," he writes in the book's preface....
Read entire article at Guardian (UK)

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