• 3.8 • 5 Ratings
    • £19.99

    • £19.99

Publisher Description


‘An important book’ Max Hastings, Sunday Times

‘An intriguing history of covert surveillance … thoroughly engaging’ Daily Telegraph

GCHQ is the largest and most secretive intelligence organisation in the UK, and has existed for 100 years – but we still know next to nothing about it.

In this ground-breaking book – the first and most definitive history of the organisation ever published – intelligence expert Richard Aldrich traces GCHQ’s development from a wartime code-breaking operation based in the Bedfordshire countryside into one of the world leading espionage organisations.

Packed with dramatic spy stories, GCHQ also explores the organisation’s role behind the most alarming headlines of our time, from fighting ISIS to cyberterrorism, from the surveillance state to Russian hacking. Revelatory, brilliantly written and fully updated, this is the crucial missing link in Britain’s intelligence history.


‘Richard J. Aldrich is an outstanding analyst and historian of intelligence and he tells this story well…an important book, which will make readers think uncomfortably not only about the state’s power to monitor our lives, but also the appalling vulnerability of every society in thrall to communications technology as we are.’ Max Hastings, Sunday Times

‘An intriguing history of covert surveillance … thoroughly engaging’ Daily Telegraph

‘Skilfully weaves together the personal, political, military and technological dimensions of electronic espionage’ Economist

‘Aldrich packs in vast amounts of information, while managing to remain very readable. He paints the broad picture, but also introduces fascinating detail’ Literary Review

‘This is a sober and valuable work of scholarship, which is as reliable as anything ever is in the twilight world of intelligence-gathering. Yet there is nothing dry about it. Aldrich knows how to write for a wider audience, while avoiding the speculations, inventions, sensationalism and sheer silliness of so much modern work on the subject’ Spectator

‘Aldrich has taken a decade to produce the first substantial account of the agency's history, and this superlative book packs in vast amounts of information, yet remains wonderfully readable. He has dug up a massive amount of fascinating detail’ The Week, Book of the Week

‘Richard Aldrich, an accomplished cold war intelligence historian, has taken a decade to produce the first substantial account of what is known about the agency, and what can be gleaned from the recently released official archive’ Duncan Campbell, New Statesman

About the author

Richard Aldrich is a regular commentator on war and espionage and has written for the Evening Standard, Guardian, Times and Telegraph. He is the author of several books, including The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence which won the Donner Book Prize in 2002.

Peter Noble
hr min
11 July
William Collins

Customer Reviews

02Gerald ,

Fascinating booked ruined by the narrator

Absolutely do not get this book. The narrator (which is the author) is completely monotone throughout to the point of exhaustion. I had to stop listening and get a refund from Apple. The book itself is fascinating and welll researched. It explains how information is gathered and how used over the years with lots of intrigue between countries. I was loving the content but not the narrator who is just awful. Flat as a pancake with awkwardly spoken sentences. He has a verbal tick which excruciating and the he insists on procouncing a heavy K and T amongst others. So it "taKe" and "tenT". Professional narrators don't have these tics in their voice and are capable of inflection even with non-fiction narration. Writers and not narrators (in most cases) as they are two different arts. I've read the same complaint I'm making by other who listened to a Frederick Forsyth novel read by him. It's dire. It's one thing to buy a book to read yourself and if you don't like it then so it goes. With an audio book it's different as the narration is nearly everything (voice inflection, characters voices) and even in non-fiction there's the same scope. Good bookk ruined by narrator.

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