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The Hidden Origins of Intelligence History: Rehabilitating the ‘Airport Bookstall’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)639-660
Number of pages21
Issue number352
Early online date27 Oct 2017
Accepted/In press5 Mar 2017
E-pub ahead of print27 Oct 2017
PublishedOct 2017


King's Authors


This article is a clarion call for the rehabilitation of works on intelligence in what Christopher Andrew once referred to as the ‘airport bookstall’ genre. It argues that a more fitting epitaph for the literature from intelligence history's earliest days is better designated as the ‘Muckraker Era’, rather than the ‘airport bookstall’. My argument proceeds on three fronts. First, these writers from the latter half of the twentieth century – rather than being cast out as pariahs – should be thought of as trailblazers, as many of the techniques they pioneered have formed the methodological backbone of historical research into intelligence. Second, the literature from this period, triangulated with recent scholarship, should be re‐examined, as precious practical contributions can be identified. Lastly, throughout the article I will attempt to recast the literature from this period, offering a new more constructive perspective that is in keeping with the ethos of today's professional historian. My argument focuses on the works of three authors – Rebecca West, Gordon Brook‐Shepherd and John Bulloch – as emblematic authors of the Muckraker Era, in methods, contribution and the indifference of subsequent intelligence scholars to their work.

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