Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History : The Great Courses: Modern History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius
  • Series: The Great Courses: Modern History
  • 12 hrs and 18 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Step into the real world of the spy with this detailed and unforgettable tour of the millennia-long history and enduring legacy of espionage and covert operations. While most of us associate this top-secret subject with popular fiction and film, its true story is more fascinating, surprising, and important than you could possibly imagine.
These 24 thrilling lectures survey how world powers have attempted to work in the shadows to gain secret information or subvert enemies behind the scenes. Filled with stories and insights that will change the way you think about world history's most defining events, this course lets you peer inside a subject whose truths most people are unaware of.
Professor Liulevicius introduces you to the inner workings of covert organizations, including the Oprichnina, a feared secret service established by tsar Ivan the Terrible in the 1500s in an effort to cleanse Russia of treasonous activities; the CIA, established in 1947 by President Truman to replace the Office of Secret Services to be in charge of all intelligence collection – and which had an embarrassing early history; and Mossad, Israel's version of the CIA, which won a series of key intelligence victories during the cold war and over terror attacks and hostage crises in the second half of the 20th century.
You'll also meet famous – and infamous – spies, including Sir Francis Walsingham, Mata Hari, and Kim Philby. In this stirring series of lectures, you'll study the psychological motives behind spies, the ethics of cyber warfare and corporate espionage, the question of whether we now live in a surveillance society, and more.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

depends what you're after

What did you like best about Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History? What did you like least?

the second half of the book, dealing with the twentieth century is a clear and interesting overview


Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

Yes, this one book is likely not much of an indicator of what the others are like given they feature other speakers on other topics


What three words best describe Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius’s performance?

listenable and engaging but not nuanced


Was Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History worth the listening time?

the first half of the book was too superficial and remote. Insufficient context was established to give the brief key stories much meaningfulness and there was little to no reflection; no sooner have you started to care about the story he's telling than he's moved on from it. granted this is an overview but it's just too skirting in its approach. if time is such a restriction the lecturer really needs to let certain stories go in order to more fully flesh out others.

the second half doesn't employ a substantially different approach but there's a continuity and proximity of context that makes it substantially more satisfying.


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- Rachel

Entertaining and informative

This book is much better that Michael Warner's recent "The rise and fall of intelligence." He starts each lecture with a clear premise--"now we are going to discuss signals intelligence in WWI" and gives clear, complete examples.

The text is not technical, but he still manages to convey how technology and politics interact with the espionage community.

It is a concise and entertaining survey of espionage.
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- Sean

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses