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Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History | [The Great Courses]

Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History

Step into the real world of the spy with this detailed and unforgettable tour of the millennia-long history and enduring legacy of espionage and covert operations. While most of us associate this top-secret subject with popular fiction and film, its true story is more fascinating, surprising, and important than you could possibly imagine. These 24 thrilling lectures survey how world powers have attempted to work in the shadows to gain secret information or subvert enemies behind the scenes.
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Publisher's Summary

Step into the real world of the spy with this detailed and unforgettable tour of the millennia-long history and enduring legacy of espionage and covert operations. While most of us associate this top-secret subject with popular fiction and film, its true story is more fascinating, surprising, and important than you could possibly imagine.

These 24 thrilling lectures survey how world powers have attempted to work in the shadows to gain secret information or subvert enemies behind the scenes. Filled with stories and insights that will change the way you think about world history's most defining events, this course lets you peer inside a subject whose truths most people are unaware of.

Professor Liulevicius introduces you to the inner workings of covert organizations, including the Oprichnina, a feared secret service established by tsar Ivan the Terrible in the 1500s in an effort to cleanse Russia of treasonous activities; the CIA, established in 1947 by President Truman to replace the Office of Secret Services to be in charge of all intelligence collection – and which had an embarrassing early history; and Mossad, Israel's version of the CIA, which won a series of key intelligence victories during the cold war and over terror attacks and hostage crises in the second half of the 20th century.

You'll also meet famous – and infamous – spies, including Sir Francis Walsingham, Mata Hari, and Kim Philby. In this stirring series of lectures, you'll study the psychological motives behind spies, the ethics of cyber warfare and corporate espionage, the question of whether we now live in a surveillance society, and more.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    Christopher Shanghai, China 05-18-14
    Christopher Shanghai, China 05-18-14 Member Since 2001
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    "Learn About the History of Spying."
    If you could sum up Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History in three words, what would they be?

    You Won't Believe


    What did you like best about this story?

    Very good overview of the history of spying and covert operations from ancient times to the modern era. Not nearly long or detailed enough to do the subject justice, however. The course teacher is superb--really, really talented at presenting the topic--not a minute of boredom here.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    History of covert operations in the 19th Century was fascinating.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When the spies caught caught and killed--it happens more often than we imagine.


    Any additional comments?

    There is a need for more objective reviews of this topic in the literature and fewer "gee-whiz" types books (a la Clancy). This is towards the Le Carre style and the lecturer has great understanding of his topic.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 10-16-14
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 10-16-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Entertaining and informative"

    This book is much better that Michael Warner's recent "The rise and fall of intelligence." He starts each lecture with a clear premise--"now we are going to discuss signals intelligence in WWI" and gives clear, complete examples.

    The text is not technical, but he still manages to convey how technology and politics interact with the espionage community.

    It is a concise and entertaining survey of espionage.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reader From Aus 09-10-14

    A tad action, mix in some history, throw in some battle & a sprinkle of mystery. A dash narration with added heart & a novel can become art

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    "Recommended"
    What made the experience of listening to Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History the most enjoyable?

    The length, detail and subject matter.


    What about Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius’s performance did you like?

    Very enthusiastic and great pronunciation.


    Any additional comments?

    An excellent course and highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel 08-20-14
    Rachel 08-20-14
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    "depends what you're after"
    What did you like best about Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History? What did you like least?

    the second half of the book, dealing with the twentieth century is a clear and interesting overview


    Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

    Yes, this one book is likely not much of an indicator of what the others are like given they feature other speakers on other topics


    What three words best describe Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius’s performance?

    listenable and engaging but not nuanced


    Was Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History worth the listening time?

    the first half of the book was too superficial and remote. Insufficient context was established to give the brief key stories much meaningfulness and there was little to no reflection; no sooner have you started to care about the story he's telling than he's moved on from it. granted this is an overview but it's just too skirting in its approach. if time is such a restriction the lecturer really needs to let certain stories go in order to more fully flesh out others.

    the second half doesn't employ a substantially different approach but there's a continuity and proximity of context that makes it substantially more satisfying.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Angelo Juneau, Alaska USA 07-15-14
    M. Angelo Juneau, Alaska USA 07-15-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Interesting & well researched history."
    Where does Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Among the most interesting audiobook I've listened to so far.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History?

    The true story & details about the Trojan Horse.


    What does Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His narration gives life to the story.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    True dirt!


    Any additional comments?

    I found the narration to be well performed and gave emphasis where needed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 02-23-14
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 02-23-14 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

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    "The World's Most Versatile Profession"

    The joke is that prostitution is the world's oldest profession, and there's a debate about the second. Is it politics? Ronald Reagan joked at a business conference in Los Angeles on March 2, 1977, that "Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." Is it motherhood, as Erma Bombeck claimed in "Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession" (1983)? Or is it spying - as both Phillip Knightley says in his 1986 book, "The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the 20th Century" - and Professor Vejas
    Gabriel Liulevicius in this Great Courses lecture series "Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History" (2011)?

    Whenever spying started, it is the world's most versatile profession. Liulevicius points out that a spy can be anyone. A 13th Century merchant on the Silk Road might be gathering intelligence for Genghis Khan's Mongol Hoards. A highly respected but deeply in debt American Revolutionary War general, feeling slighted by being passed over for promotion, might sell secrets to the British - as Benedict Arnold and his wife did. An arrogant Southern Confederate Army Command might believe the propaganda that Blacks were subhuman and could not pass on military plans to the forces fighting to free them, and speak improvidently in front of a 15 year old black girl serving dinner. A politically idealistic and unrealistic group of young men might agree to spy for the communists, and rise high in a democratic government before being discovered, but after betraying hundreds (Kim Philby and the Cambridge 5). Spies can be soldiers, mothers (Valerie Plame), prostitutes (Mata Hari, arguably), friends and enemies.

    Liulevicius does discuss the reasons people become spies - including idealism (Jonathan Pollard, a Naval Intelligence Analyst who spied for Israel); money (Aldrich Ames, CIA, for the USSR/Russia), the desire to "get one over" on people who underestimated him (Robert Hanssen, FBI, also for USSR/Russia).

    Liulevicius lectures are fascinating, and emphasize the development of the tools of the profession - the tradecraft - over the last two millennia. He also discusses how tradecraft failures lead to the discovery of spies. Liulevicius doesn't throughly discuss the reasons for the failures, but the situations he mentions appear arise from a combination of hubris, laziness and arrogance of spies themselves and handlers, rather than a lack of technical resources or expertise. That psychology alone warrants another lecture.

    Liulevicius does not discuss the morals and ethics of spying, other than to mention the oft repeated maxim that "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail" which is credited to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, who disbanded the OSS (Office of Special Services) at the end of World War II. The OSS was reconstituted in fairly short order as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).

    Liulevicius mentions Pvt Chelsea Manning (formerly PFC Bradley Manning), an intelligence analyst who stole hundreds of classified communications and gave them to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Former NSA (National Security Agency) contractor Edwin Snowden's intelligence leaks didn't become public until 2013, two years after this Great Course was published. Liulevicius didn't argue that Manning was a spy, and I'm sure he'd agree Snowden wasn't one either. Both men used brute force spy techniques (they were present with the intelligence and copied it), but neither were employed by any outside entity when they acquired the intelligence. Both sold the information to the "highest bidder", although the goal wasn't money for either man. It was an expression of moral belief, a desire fame, or both.

    In light of these recent revelations, it would be great to hear Liulevicius talk about whether the US government's intrusion into the privacy of its citizens - its spying - is a reflection of paranoid politicians, an insular society, or just business as usual - made unusually transparent. Perhaps an updated course, Audible/Great Courses?

    This is a good course, but like all Audible versions of Great Courses, there's no accompanying course material. I'm fine with that - I wouldn't have read a book along with it anyway. A true Table of Contents would have been nice, and that's available at the Great Courses website.

    [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks.]

    16 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Meredith Charlotte, NC, United States 12-10-13
    Meredith Charlotte, NC, United States 12-10-13 Member Since 2008

    nedalexis43

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    "Interesting Enough"

    Not quite what I expected, but interesting enough to hold my attention all the way through. I found myself wanting more information, and this lecture series only has enough time to scratch the surface in many cases. It did ensure I will look for more in depth titles dealing with real world espionage and its effect on the geopolitical landscape of the past couple centuries.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    hotea1313 efrat, Israel 11-22-13
    hotea1313 efrat, Israel 11-22-13 Member Since 2013
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    "very interesting biased against religion"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    It is extremely interesting and hardto stop listening. You can tell from listening that the author in extremely enthusiastic about the subject.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Bring a pillow because it would be extremly long


    Any additional comments?

    Overall I recommend this audiobook but he is extremely critical of religion.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Waterloo, ON, Canada 03-05-14
    Nancy Waterloo, ON, Canada 03-05-14 Member Since 2010

    I love learning, teaching, and exploring!

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    "Detailed and engaging"

    I enjoyed listening to this course about espionage. It served almost as a history lesson and covered topics from ancient times to modern days. It would be an enjoyable listen for anyone who appreciates world history. It is not a lesson on how to be a spy.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-9 of 9 results
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  • Adrian
    Clophill, United Kingdom
    8/7/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good General History"
    Any additional comments?

    This is an interesting series of lectures, all of a half hour in length, which I listened to in a period of four days. I have always been fascinated by spying and espionage and bought these by the title. I enjoyed them, although I would have preferred more detail of the several case histories, they provide a good general overview of the subject if you have no prior knowledge of the subject.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • lilith_farrell
    York, United Kingdom
    10/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good start point"
    What made the experience of listening to Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History the most enjoyable?

    The lectures were given in a rather entertaining form, with a lot of information references. So I got the general story about the topic, also got several references to check afterwards if I want. I can't say it's comprehensive but definitely a good start.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Multiple books recommendation for further reading. Very entertaining.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The in fact male spy managed to convince a male French diplomat that he was a woman. They then had an affair and the spy later told the diplomat he was pregnant...


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. Several lectures were linked more closely than others so maybe listen to them in one sitting.


    Any additional comments?

    I feel like the title 'global' is not quite right for the content. It is more like 'western history', for except for some bits about Ninja and 'the Art of War', the Asian part is largely missing. There is far more information about British, Soviet/Russian, American. Sure, they have been the major players in modern history, still, the course is not global enough to justify the title.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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