Cambridge exhibition lifts covers on world of spies
CAMBRIDGE: The shadowy world of espionage is dragged into the spotlight at a new exhibition from the British university which gave the world Cold War double agents Philby, Burgess and Blunt.
Cambridge University Library (www.lib.cam.ac.uk) will use recently declassified documents and “top-secret” material from its archives in its free exhibition Under Covers: Documenting Spies to examine the art of espionage from Biblical times to the modern era.
The show draws on personal archives, printed books, official publicity material, popular journals, specialist photographs and maps, mostly from the university library’s collections, to illustrate a few of the ways in which spies have been documented through the centuries.
“ Under Covers brings together an astonishing variety of different kinds of material, all throwing light on the business of uncovering and keeping secrets,” university librarian Anne Jarvis said of the show which runs until July.
Exhibits range from a 12thcentury manuscript recounting the story of King Alfred the Great entering a Danish camp disguised as a harpist to a Soviet-era map of East Anglia.
John Ker’s 18th-century “licence to spy”, granted by Queen Anne, shows the underworld of spies was well established long before James Bond earned his fictional licence to kill.
Other highlights include papers used by a parliamentary committee investigating the Atterbury Plot to capture the royal family in the 1720s, a telegram from the British spymaster of the day confirming news of Rasputin’s murder, and letters to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin from Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill, only declassified in 2007.
Incensed at being denied access to intercepted Japanese telegrams already seen by more junior personnel, Churchill, then chancellor of the exchequer, wrote to Prime Minister Baldwin in February 1925.
A 1985 Soviet map of eastern England shows English towns and cities in Cyrillic script. The Soviet military produced such maps more than 50 years before, during and after the Cold War.
Classified as secret, they were unknown outside the Soviet military machine until the break-up of the USSR – when they became available on the open market. – Reuters