On Their Majesties' Secret Service: An Historical Perspective of British Invasion/Spy Literature, 1871-1918

Author: Daniel Laurie-Fletcher

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 22 Jan 2018.

Laurie-Fletcher, Daniel, 2014 On Their Majesties' Secret Service: An Historical Perspective of British Invasion/Spy Literature, 1871-1918, Flinders University, Centre for Development Studies

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Abstract

This thesis is concerned with examining British spy literature, a form of literature that began to appear towards the end of the nineteenth century and developed into a clearly recognised form during the Edwardian period (1901-1914). This is done by looking at its origins and evolution from invasion literature and to a lesser extent detective literature up to the end of World War I. A main focus will be on the political arguments imbedded in the text, which mirrored those same debates in wider British society that took place before and during World War I. These debates and topics within the literature will be examined to see what influence, if any, they had on the creation of the intelligence service of MI5 and MI6 and how foreigners were perceived. In addition there will be chapters that focus on a number of social aspects, to compare the fictional world of literature with the reality and the mind-set of British society during the given time period especially during World War I. This part of the thesis is aimed at demonstrating that the idea of the 'Self and Other' or 'Us and Them', which is expressed in the literature especially during World War I was used as a means of further creating a sense of difference between the British and the Germans, where the former were used to represent civilisation while the latter as portrayed represented barbarism that was a direct threat to civilisation. While in the case of the portrayal of women in wartime occupations it will be shown that literature was written in a manner that belonged to the style of writing and imagery which is found in British propaganda during World War I about the use of women in the war effort while not contradicting already held social values about the position of women in society. In conclusion the thesis will argue that spy literature from its evolution from invasion literature with its use of repetition and recurrence, which was also found in political periodicals and debates at the time, was overall ideologically driven by the right-wing elements of British politics to attack the Liberal Party in order to convince a wider public audience towards a certain political and military point of view. This had mixed results, while portraying differences between the British and foreigners especially Germans.

Keywords: Secret Service
Subject: International Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2014
School: School of International Studies
Supervisor: David Lockwood