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Publisher's Summary

Fully Updated Centenary Edition

GCHQ is the largest and most secretive intelligence organisation in the UK, and has existed for 100 years - but we still know next to nothing about it. 

In this ground-breaking book - the first and most definitive history of the organisation ever published - intelligence expert Richard Aldrich traces GCHQ’s development from a wartime code-breaking operation based in the Bedfordshire countryside into one of the world-leading espionage organisations. 

Packed with dramatic spy stories, GCHQ also explores the organisation’s role behind the most alarming headlines of our time, from fighting ISIS to cyber-terrorism, from the surveillance state to Russian hacking. 

Revelatory, brilliantly written and fully updated, this is the crucial missing link in Britain’s intelligence history.

©2019 Richard Aldrich (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"Richard J. Aldrich is an outstanding analyst and historian of intelligence and he tells this story well...an important book, which will make readers think uncomfortably not only about the state’s power to monitor our lives, but also the appalling vulnerability of every society in thrall to communications technology as we are." (Max Hastings, Sunday Times)

"An intriguing history of covert surveillance...thoroughly engaging." (Daily Telegraph)

"Skilfully weaves together the personal, political, military and technological dimensions of electronic espionage" (Economist)

What listeners say about GCHQ: Centenary Edition

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  • Philip
  • 10-15-19

Sober and detailed history

I rarely give full marks, but this work is exceptional. It is comprehensive (well it is over 25 hours!) and written in beautifully transparently English that it's delightful to hear. Peter Noble's delivery compliments the whole work.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Mr D Davies
  • 09-12-19

Fascinating and profound

This is an epic history of one of our most secret organisations. It is a long and detailed telling covering not just GCHQ but also the NSA and their impact on the worlds stage. It can feel a bit dry at times but it feels very well researched

7 people found this helpful

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  • A. Curtis
  • 10-28-19

Detailed and well written

Really interesting book which moves the story on without loosing detail. I felt I really did learn a lot and some of it is quite disturbing! Very nicely narrated also.

5 people found this helpful

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  • The Curator
  • 02-15-20

Fascinating and frightening in equal measure

The book is an absolutely fascinating look at our intelligence and communications. I was particularly interested in the Falkland section as I was a child when it happened.
I was however, quite surprised to find out the book was written in 2019. It felt much older and gaffes such as repeated references to the third world and one to a ‘girl at GCHQ’ made me wonder if this was an updated version of a much older book.

4 people found this helpful

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  • deborah
  • 09-11-20

Really good narration.

Very good narration for such a long book was seamless throughout. Quite worrying at the end though with all the potential for hacking our everyday lives.

2 people found this helpful

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  • William Hardie
  • 01-20-20

Fantastic story incredibly well written

I was nervous about this book being over long and boring. How wrong I was. It gripped me from start to finish.
GCHQ is a fascinating story. There are highs and low in the story as GCHQ battles nations in counter espionage and counterterrorism.
Supremely well written with a galloping pace but enough detail throughout. The author is very knowledgable. It’s written as good popular history should be. The story and narrative is never lost from beginning to end.
As a 1963 boomer I found the links to the many big stories of my upbringing in the uk particularly interesting.
The NSA link with GCHQ was also well told.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-04-21

Very interesting and engaging

I’ve not long started this book but had to come and review it to 5 stars. So interesting and the reader is just great. It’s like listening to a good documentary. Highly recommend this one!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Wayne O'Brien
  • 11-26-20

Fascinating.

Great listen. Worth getting comfortable and investing the time to listen. Narrator's voice and tone are ideal for the material. Fascinating account of how GCHQ went from Bletchley Park to combating terrorists and cybercriminals. It's startling how little we as a society know about the secrets that lie in plain sight.

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  • PETER ROWLEY
  • 11-11-20

A Detailed History

Fascinating listen. Loads of detail, perhaps a bit more than I was expecting however I enjoyed every word.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mongan
  • 09-19-20

Excellent

Very well written, very well researched. The history of such a secret and profound institution is amazing to listen to. Deffo recommended.

1 person found this helpful