Research Intelligence in Early Modern England: Official Scholars and Action Officers

By: William H. Sherman


For most readers, the collection of essays issued by colleagues and admirers of the eminent historian Conyers Read is something of an enigma. There is no mention of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary and spymaster, or her Treasurer, William Cecil, the subjects of Read’s classic studies. In fact, none of the essays even remotely concern Tudor politics. Instead, tucked in between essays on the “‘Relations Between British Inductive

Logic and French Impressionist Painting” and “John Wesley and the American Revolution,” is a contribution from Richard Humphrey of the US Department of State entitled, “‘The Official Scholar’: A Survey of Certain Research in American Policy.” And the introductory essay is written by William L. Langer, a Harvard historian and a pioneer in the development of US intelligence institutions. The reason behind these surprising items is that, for almost five years during World War II, Read was employed by the US Government as Director of the British Empire unit in the Research & Analysis (R&A) Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). 

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