Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the summer 1993 issue of Queen’s Quarterly, a Canadian publication.
The intelligence revolution is a distinctly 20th century phenomenon, one of the least well understood developments of our time. It began with the surfacing of some extraordinary fantasies into the political consciousness of modern Europe. As the century opened, French society shuddered its way through the scandal known as the Dreyfus affair, in which a French Army colonel of Jewish extraction was accused of spying against the state. The charges were trumped up, but before their fictionality could be revealed, they set off a wave of anti-Semitism, heightened by manifestations of French national insecurity (see Bredin).
In Britain, a handful of patriotic and market-sensitive thriller writers seized on the alarms of the day to create both the genre of spy fiction and a panic about the clandestine activities of German spies ready and waiting to subvert the country from within whilst a German Army landed on Brighton Beach. The spy panic had no foundation in reality but was taken very seriously by the authorities.