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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.
©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Rachel on 08-20-14

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. <br/><br/>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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26 of 26 people found this review helpful


By Terrance Ferguson on 12-29-14

Perhaps too broad a topic for this format?

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would. It covers so much that you are bound to find something that interests you.

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

No. This is the only topic i saw that interested me personally and the way it was covered left a lot to be desired. But there's so much touched on here so its probably impossible to feel satisfied with whats given without it being a million hours long.

What about Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius’s performance did you like?

Excellent. Enthusiastic without being forced or ridiculous. Engaged without sounding bias.

Did Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History inspire you to do anything?

Research. Lots and lots of research.

Any additional comments?

The amount of detail and information is astounding yet disappointing. The scope is so wide that it is impossible to cover any instance with any intimacy. It got better the more modern it got (obviously because we have better record) but i still felt like i was was being hurried through a museum with just enough time to read the placards once before being pushed along. I do appreciate how much is mentioned. <br/><br/>NOTE: Toward the end he does some what spoil Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy , The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, Casino Royale, Hunt For Red October (i think) and a few others which escape me now. You get plenty of warning for most of them. But they are there.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By lilith_farrell on 10-03-14

Good start point

What made the experience of listening to Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History the most enjoyable?

The lectures were given in a rather entertaining form, with a lot of information references. So I got the general story about the topic, also got several references to check afterwards if I want. I can't say it's comprehensive but definitely a good start.

What did you like best about this story?

Multiple books recommendation for further reading. Very entertaining.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The in fact male spy managed to convince a male French diplomat that he was a woman. They then had an affair and the spy later told the diplomat he was pregnant...

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. Several lectures were linked more closely than others so maybe listen to them in one sitting.

Any additional comments?

I feel like the title 'global' is not quite right for the content. It is more like 'western history', for except for some bits about Ninja and 'the Art of War', the Asian part is largely missing. There is far more information about British, Soviet/Russian, American. Sure, they have been the major players in modern history, still, the course is not global enough to justify the title.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful


By Adrian on 08-07-13

Good General History

Any additional comments?

This is an interesting series of lectures, all of a half hour in length, which I listened to in a period of four days. I have always been fascinated by spying and espionage and bought these by the title. I enjoyed them, although I would have preferred more detail of the several case histories, they provide a good general overview of the subject if you have no prior knowledge of the subject.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Rob Steyn on 05-30-17

An Interesting and Enlightening Experience

Although quite long, these lectures were interesting and often entertaining as they uncovered the secret world of espionage... genuinely enjoyable if the subject interests you.

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By Stan on 08-01-16

Great over view of spying

This is not deep. But it ultimately poses deep questions. The espionage story across thousands of years is very well told and themes are well outlined: why spying is undertaken, who does it, what motivates the spies, the role of technology, the influence of espionage in literature and how all this has changed spying and several more threads.

As for the deeper questions, essentially that is about the role of surveillance and secrecy in democratic society. And we are given no answer beyond our collective vigilance.

I really enjoyed this course.

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