Espionage and Surveillance State in the Elizabethan Age

“We think of the surveillance state as a modern development, something conjured up by novels such as Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent or George Orwell’s 1984, or by real-life stories of Stalin’s Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany. But spying is one of the world’s oldest professions, as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Bible attest. Well before the 20th century, many states were doing all they could to monitor their citizens’ activities as closely and comprehensively as possible.

England in particular has a long history of spying on its own people. It is no accident that in Hamlet, Shakespeare portrays the Danish government specializing in espionage and double-dealing. In Act 2, scene 1, the court councilor Polonius teaches a henchman how to spy on Polonius’ own son, Laertes, in Paris, instructing him “by indirections find directions out.” Moving as he did in court circles, Shakespeare was evidently familiar with intelligence operations in Elizabethan England, some of which involved several of his famous contemporaries—certainly Francis Bacon and possibly Christopher Marlowe. Under such spymasters as Lord Burghley and Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s court pioneered many of the techniques and practices we associate with international espionage to this day, including code-breaking and the use of double and even triple agents.”

More: http://reason.com/archives/2012/11/24/the-elizabethan-cia

Jack King “A new King of thrillers”: http://www.SpyWriter.com

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