Secrets and Lies: Spying in Britain from the 16thC to the present day

Ref: C3671659

The British have a fascination with spies. From Elizabeth the First's priest hunters to Georgian rogues and plots against Harold Wilson, they are as much a part of our island history as the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the successful wars against Napoleon and Hitler. The big difference is how little we know about spies and spying. This course will weave history and contemporary references together to provide an entertaining overview of spies and spying in Britain from the 16th century to the present day.

Additional information about this course

The British have a fascination with spies. From Elizabeth I's priest hunters to Georgian rogues and plots against Harold Wilson, they are as much a part of our history as the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The big difference is how little we know about spies and spying. This Day School will weave history and contemporary references together to provide an entertaining overview of the subject.

Course aim

This course will provide a quick and easy guide to spies and spying in Britain from the Tudors to the present day.

Who is the course for?

Some knowledge of British History would help.

What topics will this course cover

The course will cover four periods: From the Tudors to the French Revolution (1485 - 1789); The French Revolution to the Chartists; Victorian and Edwardian developments; From WW1 to the present day. Each section will ask: Was a spy "system" in operation? How did government get its information? What were the threats to Britain and how were they confronted? If a "system" existed, who created it and why? Who were the main spies / spymasters? How did spy "systems" evolve? How dis attitudes to spying change over the centuries?

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. List five key spies / spymasters. 2. List five plots uncovered by spying. 3. Talk about the differences between the four periods. 4. Discuss how attitudes to spying have changed.

How will I know I'm making progress?

The session will involve regular Q & A time.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

Please bring pens and paper.

Reading and information sources

No reading or prep is required.

What could the course lead to?

This course could help anybody wishing to broaden their knowledge of British History or aid further study at A Level or degree level.

Download full course outline

Secrets and Lies: Spying in Britain from the 16thC to the present day Course Outline

Enrolment Conditions

You can enrol online if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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