Behind the Enigma: The Authorised History of GCHQ, Britain's Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency

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Professor John Ferris and Gill Bennett discussed the first-ever authorised history of the ultra-secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and dig deep into the past of Britain's biggest cyber-intelligence agency.

For a hundred years, GCHQ has been at the forefront of innovation in national security and British secret statecraft. Famed for its codebreaking achievements during the Second World War, and essential to the Allied victory, GCHQ also held a critical role in both the Falklands War and Cold War. Today, amidst the growing threats of terrorism and online crime, GCHQ continues to be the UK's leading intelligence, security and cyber agency, and a powerful tool of the British state.

Having been given unprecedented access to classified archives, Professor Ferris and Gill Bennett discussed Behind the Enigma, the first book to authoritatively tell the entire history of GCHQ and peer into its future at the heart of the nation's security.

Speaker biographies

Professor John Ferris is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada. He is Professor of History at the University of Calgary, where he also is a Fellow at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. He is Honorary Professor at the Department of International Politics, University of Aberystwyth, and also in the Faculty of Business, Law and Politics at Brunel University. He is an Associate Member of Nuffield College, Oxford. He received an MA (1980) and a PhD (1986) in War Studies from King's College London. He has published five books and 120 academic articles or chapters in books on diplomatic, intelligence and military history, as well as contemporary strategy and intelligence. His books have been published in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Singapore, Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom. They have also been translated into French and Japanese. He comments in national and international media, on Canadian and American foreign and military policy, on power politics and war, intelligence, and nuclear weapons. His latest book, 'Behind the Enigma: The Authorised History of GCHQ, Britain's Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency’ was published by Bloomsbury in October 2020.

Gill Bennett OBE MA FRHistS is a Senior Associate Fellow of RUSI. She was Chief Historian of the Foreign Office from 1995-2005, and senior editor of its official history of British foreign policy, Documents on British Policy Overseas. As a historian in Whitehall for over thirty years, she provided historical advice to twelve Foreign Secretaries under six Prime Ministers, from Edward Heath to Tony Blair. A specialist in the history of secret intelligence, she published a ground-breaking biography, Churchill’s Man of Mystery: Desmond Morton and the World of Intelligence, in 2006. She was also part of the research team working on the official history of the Secret Intelligence Service by Professor Keith Jeffery, published in 2010. Gill is now involved in a range of research projects for various Government departments. From 2006 to 2007, she was the Distinguished Visiting Fellow Lecturer at the Joint Services Command Staff College. Her most recent book, The Zinoviev Letter: The Conspiracy that Never Dies, was published by Oxford University Press in August 2018.

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