This book considers in detail the culture and language of plots, conspiracies and intrigues and exposes how the intelligence activities of the Three Kingdoms of the 1640s began to be situated within early modern government from the Civil Wars to the rule of Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s. It also introduces the reader to some of the personalities who were caught up in this contemporary intelligence and espionage world from the intelligencers, especially Thomas Scot and John Thurloe, to the men and women who became its secret agents and spies. The book includes accounts of espionage activities not just in England but also in Ireland and Scotland, and it especially investigates intelligence and espionage during the critical periods of the British Civil Wars and the important developments which took place under the English Republic and Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s.
This chapter examines, in the significant contexts of contemporary plot mentalité and plot literature, a supposed plot to stage an armed rising on 12 October 1663, a rising in North-East England that would begin across the counties of Yorkshire, Durham and Westmorland, and erupt into a nationwide rebellion. It raises questions as to whether the 1663 plot was — as it has been frequently depicted — a dangerous threat to the government by some ‘desperate men’, supporters of the ‘good old cause’, who wanted to bring back the English Republic. Or, can it be seen as a mere folie du jour from a few scattered and disgruntled dissenters? Or was it, as some thought at the time, a conveniently manufactured and exaggerated affair designed for public consumption by a government who were scaremongering for their own reasons? In effect, the chapter asks just how serious was this plot and its potential Northern rebellion.
Chapter 2 considers the important developments within the office of the secretary of state up until the outbreak of the Civil Wars. It is in this office that we find the first signs of the development of the state management of secret intelligence gathering and espionage. This was also to be bound up with the history of administrative changes in government in the era. This chapter will explore the affairs of the office and the office management and practices of various secretaries of state from Lord Burghley, Francis Walsingham and Robert Cecil through to the secretaries of state of King Charles I. It looks at the fluid concepts of espionage in this period and the establishment of a ‘working tradition’. It also examines the ideas of espionage in Ireland and Scotland in the era, as well as the significance of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. It ends with an examination of the world of espionage and informers in the reign of King Charles I, including the use of the Post Office as a hub for such matters.
Chapter 5 directly examines the Cromwellian Protectorate’s intelligence and espionage system of 1653–58. It reassesses the secret work of Secretary John Thurloe and his master the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. It takes the reader into the Cromwellian regime’s office routine, its intelligence analysis and into the nature of what actually lay behind the realities of espionage and secrecy under John Thurloe and the Protectorate regime. It also seeks to show just how this secret intelligence material entered into the Cromwellian governmental system and how it was used there to formulate and support policy both at home and abroad. Last of all, it reassesses the important figure of John Thurloe in this secret world.
Chapter 3 examines the immediate roots of the intelligence activities of the 1650s to be found in the chaos of the British Civil Wars of the 1640s. As such, this chapter begins with concepts of wartime ‘spy fever’ and then explores the role of espionage in these conflicts across the nations of the British Isles. It examines how and where the techniques of military intelligence were developed and used in the wars and the role of scoutmasters, as well as the careers of some wartime spies and intelligencers. It then considers the Royalist, Covenanter and Parliamentarian administrative solutions to the issue of wartime intelligence and how the Parliamentary solutions on such matters prefigured the type of intelligence work that would be undertaken by the English Republic and the Cromwellian regime through various committees and other elements.
Chapter 4 follows the Civil War thread of intelligence into a direct analysis of the actions of the espionage system of the English Republic (1649–53). It especially focuses on the important role played by the relatively forgotten figure of the regicide politician Thomas Scot, who was to become the ‘intelligencer’ for that regime and the ‘grand Spier of the Nation’. It explores his personality, his attitudes to espionage and his techniques. It also illuminates the work of his assistants and agents, especially his ally George Bishop. It then places this covert work in the development of the day-to-day work of the Republican government of 1649–53. It also looks at the surviving evidence of Republican intelligence and espionage in this era and at some of the covert activities of one of its agents, the former Leveller Edward Sexby.
Chapter 1 explores some of the major historical themes, roots, ideas and issues that underpinned the development of secret government activities in the 1650s. It examines the actual shape and visions of the mid-seventeenth-century covert business of the ‘secret state’. As such, this chapter introduces the reader to the major themes and issues (linguistic, social, cultural and political), that relate to intelligence and espionage in the early modern period, as well as the background and the significance of it as a subject. It deals with public and private morality, the meaning of words in the world of espionage, social and client–patron relations and the increasing importance of the office of the secretaries of state in the contemporary administrative and espionage world. The chapter also examines the world of espionage and European diplomacy. Lastly, the chapter explores the context of the early modern spies employed by contemporary intelligencers and their characteristics.
The Afterword to this work links these earlier periods of intelligence and espionage to the coming secret intelligence world of the Restoration and beyond. It discusses how the ideas of the ‘edg’d tools’ of government, secrecy, intelligence and espionage of the Republic and Protectorate impacted on the second half of the seventeenth century. It also shows how the secret experiences of Scot and Thurloe, and what had preceded them in the Civil Wars, had an effect on the secret government actions after the Restoration of the monarchy in May 1660.
This book will argue that the 1650s was a formative and significant period in the history of early modern intelligence and espionage. It had novelty in its administrative development, whose roots lay in the Civil Wars on the Parliamentary side. It also saw the development of a version of what we would now call a ‘secret state’. This work will explore some of the trends, the roots and the realities that lay behind the images and shapes of secret intelligence gathering and espionage actions, especially in the 1640s and 1650s, as these Republican regimes moved towards more state management of intelligence matters than their predecessors and away from a ‘working tradition’ in secret matters. The book also introduces readers to the histories of spies and secret agents, their personalities, covert ideas and methods. It especially focuses upon the themes, actions and attitudes of two of the main ‘British’ polities of era: the English Republic of 1649–53 and the Protectoral regime of Oliver Cromwell.