Right-sided spooks

April 18, 2013

I thank Matthew Feldman for his generally positive review of my book British Writers and MI5 Surveillance, 1930-1960 (Books, 4 April), but certain areas require correction. For one, he is inaccurate with the basic details concerning Ezra Pound’s MI5 file (the National Archives catalogue references should be KV 2/875 and KV 2/876, for example). Unfortunately, such inaccuracy extends into Feldman’s wider version of MI5’s history.

It is simply wrong to state that MI5 was “as interested in the far right as in the far left”. As Christopher Andrew’s The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) amply demonstrates, the intelligence service consistently downplayed the inter-war far right threat, initially believing that the British Union of Fascists was motivated by “genuine, if wrong-headed, patriotism” before “reassuring” Whitehall that the BUF was a spent force.

And while an “online search of files” at the National Archives might indeed turn up the modest roll of Pound, P.G. Wodehouse and Robert Gordon- Canning as right-wing authors with MI5 files, further research might suggest that this list is dwarfed by the range of files that were opened on the significant left-wing authors, actors, editors, dramatists, magazines, film societies and theatres of the era.

James Smith
Durham University

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry

But the highest value UK spin-off companies mainly come from research-intensive universities, latest figures show