The Origins of British Counter-Espionage

  • Thomas Boghardt
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


In 1870, the imperial French government of Napoleon III declared war on Prussia and her allies, but the Germans quickly annihilated the French army, invaded France, captured the emperor himself, and eventually conquered Paris. On 28 January 1871, French General de Valdan signed an armistice.1 Eleven days later, a British officer, Colonel George Tomkyns Chesney, submitted the outline of a short story entitled The Battle of Dorking to Blackwood’s Magazine where it was published soon afterwards.2 Chesney’s tale describes a successful German invasion of England, culminating in the rout and defeat of the British army at Dorking. Through the character of a veteran recalling the disaster for his grandchildren fifty years after the event, Chesney presented an invasion whose ‘coming was foreshadowed plainly enough to open our eyes, if we had not been wilfully blind’.3 His message was straightforward. A false sense of security and lack of preparedness had caused British failure. The story, subsequently reprinted in more accessible book form, adopted the moral imperative of shaking the British people from national indolence.4


Short Story Intelligence Community Daily Mail Liberal Government General Staff 
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Copyright information

© Thomas Boghardt 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Boghardt
    • 1
  1. 1.International Spy MuseumUSA

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