The Secret War Against the Arts

How MI5 Targeted Left-Wing Writers and Artists, 1936-1956

Richard Knott

During the 1930s, the British Intelligence agencies became increasingly concerned about Communist influence in the country. They reacted by spying on thousands of ordinary British citizens.
Date Published :
November 2020
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
38 black & white photographs
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781526770318
Pages : 208
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order
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$49.95

Overview
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During the 1930s, the British Intelligence agencies became increasingly concerned about Communist influence in the country. They reacted by spying on thousands of ordinary British citizens. Amongst them were many artists and writers who, in tune with ‘the spirit of the times’, had become sympathetic to left-wing causes, most notably the Spanish Civil War. Telephones were bugged, post opened, homes searched and people encouraged to report suspicious behavior – all reminiscent of the East German Stasi.

This book has been written in the light of previously secret files, now available in The National Archives, which indicate the extent of the surveillance and the consequences for those being watched. It focuses on a significant number of writers and artists who were either members of the Communist Party of Great Britain or were suspected of being ‘fellow travelers'. They include: George Orwell, Stephen Spender, Olivia Manning, Storm Jameson, W.H. Auden, Sylvia Townsend Warner, J.B. Priestley, Doris Lessing, Julian Trevelyan, Randall Swingler, Paul Hogarth, Clive Branson, and James Boswell.

The Secret War Against the Arts is a unique account of a dramatic period of modern history, from the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War to the Hungarian uprising in 1956, revealing how MI5 was systematic, unrelenting and uncompromising in its pursuit of artists and writers throughout the period, while failing to see the much more disturbing treachery of others – Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess and Kim Philby, for example.

About The Author
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Richard Knott has a degree in History from the University of London. He has worked as an actor (with the Royal Shakespeare Company), teacher and management consultant. His previous books include: Black Night for Bomber Command (Pen & Sword, 2007 and 2014); Flying Boats of the Empire (Robert Hale, 2011); The Sketchbook War (The History Press, 2013 and 2014); and The Trio (The History Press, 2015). Previously he has written two books on the teaching of English, a poetry anthology (Wordlife, Nelson, 1988), and a book of cricket quotations (Cricket: Wit, Wickets and Wisdom, Running Press, 1996).

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