Book Blog

Well I’ve finally finished LBC Horsforth book club choice for last month.

Ian Cobain – The History Thieves

Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation


In 1889, the first Official Secrets Act was passed, creating offences of ‘disclosure of information’ and ‘breach of official trust’.

It limited and monitored what the public could, and should, be told. Since then a culture of secrecy has flourished.

As successive governments have been selective about what they choose to share with the public, we have been left with a distorted and incomplete understanding not only of the workings of the state but of our nation’s culture and its past.

In this important book, Ian Cobain offers a fresh appraisal of some of the key moments in British history since the end of WWII, including: the measures taken to conceal the existence of Bletchley Park and its successor, GCHQ, for three decades; the unreported wars fought during the 1960s and 1970s; the hidden links with terrorist cells during the Troubles; the sometimes opaque workings of the criminal justice system; the state’s peacetime surveillance techniques; and the convenient loopholes in the Freedom of Information Act.

Drawing on previously unseen material and rigorous research, The History Thieves reveals how a complex bureaucratic machine has grown up around the British state, allowing governments to evade accountability and their secrets to be buried.

This was a brilliant but deeply depressing read. It took me far longer than it should just because of the immensity of the betrayal, the fraud being perpetrated on the British public.

At the end of each chapter, I stopped and stewed – particularly with regards to the contempt shown to the former colonies. The chapter on Northern Ireland was one that also resonated particularly powerfully.

Mostly, I’ve ended it completely confused as to why this is allowed to continue. Given what is known, it’s quite terrifying to think that there might be worse information hidden. And if not, surely the harsh light of day is the best albeit painful remedy?

This book was published in 2016 and did include information on Chelsey Manning and Edward Snowden. I’d be very curious to know what would make it into any follow up chapters!

As to the author, I’ll definitely be seeking out his previous books (Cruel Britannia and Anatomy of a Killing) as his writing style has me educated, fascinated and following…despite the often dry nature of the subject matter.

But not this year! The titles are more than enough to put me off in the short term!!!

So this evening, as a special treat, I’m starting Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers – the final (completed) Lord Wimsey novel.

Leaning against an actual french fireman’s helmet. Because why not.

Due to the abundance of second hand book shops in Kent, I actually have this one to read in Actual Book format, which is also very exciting.

They plan to have a quiet country honeymoon. Then Lord Peter Wimsey and his bride, Harriet Vane, find the previous owner’s body in the cellar.

Set in a country village seething with secrets and snobbery, this is Dorothy L. Sayers’ last full-length detective novel.

Variously described as a love story with detective interruptions and a detective story with romantic interruptions, it lives up to both descriptions with style.

I can’t wait, especially as I’ve been promised many letters from the Dowager Duchess!

This series has been such a gift this last year and a half. Thanks hugely to LBC 3 Reads for the introduction.

I guess it’s Georgette Heyer next. 😁


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  1. Pingback: Book Blog | DrNeevil's Notes

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