A Historical Perspective on Intelligence

The French Napoleonic Staff View of HUMINT

As translated from German by Rick Sanders

Translated in the following pages is a chapter from a book first published in Paris in 1809. Written by one of Napoleon’s generals, Philippe Henri de Grimoard, the book is about service on the general staff and is entitled Traité sur le service de l’état major général des armées: contenent son objet, son organisation et ses fonctions, sous les rapports administratifs et militaries [Treatise on Service in the Army General Staff: Reflections on its Organization and Functions, in Administrative and Military Respects].

The book was translated into German in 1810 by a former officer of a German General Staff and published in Weimar, Prussia. The German title translated into English reads About Service on the General Staff of the Army: a Liberal Extract from the French Work by General Grimoard on the Same Subject. The following English translation is of the third chapter, “Spies,” from the German version. In 1810, Prussia had been conquered by Napoleon, and its army subordinated to that of France. During the past 200 years, language and terminology have changed, but many of the principles of human intelligence, HUMINT, seem to have remained constant. The translator, however, does not advocate any particular aspect of Grimoard’s advice on espionage and asks readers to bear in mind how prevailing European views on religion and gender in the early 19th century differ from today. The original German translation is in CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. The whereabouts of the French original is unknown.—R.S.

Download PDF for translation and images of the translated pages from the German book. [PDF 6.1MB*]


*Adobe® Reader® is needed to view Adobe PDF files. If you don't already have Adobe Reader installed, you may download the current version at (opens in a new window). [external link disclaimer]

[Top of page]


All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this article are those of the author. Nothing in the article should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of an article’s factual statements and interpretations.

Posted: Jul 02, 2010 10:49 AM
Last Updated: Jul 02, 2010 10:49 AM