The Secret War Against the Arts

The Secret War Against the Arts written by Richard Knott and published by Pen & Sword Books £25.00 – Hardback – Pages 240

During pre-War and after the War it would seem that MI5 would spend 20 years spying on thousands of its own nationals. It seemed that quite a few of them were actors, artists singers and those of culture or as they would say that had left wing leanings in life. With the emergence of fascist Franco and the Spanish Civil War and then with all the pressure and suspicions of eastern Russia. Britain would come to view these people with suspicion for crimes against the state. MI5 used secret files from the National Archives, the author Richard Knott reveals the extent of MI5’s methodical and implacable investigation into the lives of such people as the writer George Orwell, poets W.H. Auden & Stephen Spender, broadcaster J.B. Priestley and the artist Paul Hogarth who, like Orwell, had fought on the Republican side during Spain’s Civil War.

This was a surprising little book that I hadn’t really known about or at least thought about, although since reading about now it does make obvious sense. When you look at the continual suspicions of Americans especially around the 1950’s, for trying to hunt out communists and left wing followers, which when you think about it still goes on today in Trumps America. My wife is in the theatre profession and she had heard about this, which is looking forward to reading this copy of the book too. This book is very well written by the author Richard Knott, and explains a lot about the ways and papers that were used or filed by the authorities, the book feels balanced to me although in the end it didn’t really do them that much good as they should have been looking more towards the Cambridge University area. An interesting read indeed, I will probably read this again, I recommend this to any one either into MI5 or the Arts.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ben Davidson

Hello, I have been studying all aspects of history for about 25 years. I have a BA History from the University of Bedfordshire. My historical areas of interest are anything really, but I specialise in 19th - 20th century Britain, America and Ireland. I am also strongly aligned with most military history, really enjoying WW2 and the US Civil War. Chuck in the king or queen and Bob's your uncle.

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