Cambridge exhibition drags spies in from the cold

Fri Jan 22, 2010 6:23am EST
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Paul Casciato

CAMBRIDGE, England (Reuters Life!) - The shadowy world of espionage is dragged into the spotlight at a new exhibition from the British university which gave the world the Cold War double spies Philby, Burgess and Blunt.

Cambridge University Library (www.lib.cam.ac.uk) will use recently declassified documents and "top secret" material from its own archives in its free exhibition "Under Covers: Documenting Spies" to examine the art of espionage from Biblical times to the modern era.

The show draws on personal archives, printed books, official publicity material, popular journals, specialist photographs and maps, mostly from the university library's own collections, to illustrate a few of the ways in which spies have been documented through the centuries.

"Under Covers brings together an astonishing variety of different kinds of material, all throwing light on the business of uncovering and keeping secrets," university librarian Anne Jarvis said of the show which runs until July.

Exhibits range from a 12th-century manuscript recounting the story of King Alfred the Great entering a Danish camp disguised as a harpist to a Soviet-era map of East Anglia.

John Ker's 18th-century "licence to spy," granted by Queen Anne, shows that the underworld of spies was well-established long before James Bond earned his fictional license to kill.

Other highlights include papers used by a parliamentary committee investigating the Atterbury Plot to capture the royal family in the 1720s, a telegram from the British spymaster of the day confirming news of Rasputin's murder, and letters to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin from Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill, only declassified in 2007.

Incensed at being denied access to intercepted Japanese telegrams already seen by more junior personnel, Churchill, then Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister), wrote to Prime Minister Baldwin in February 1925.   Continued...