I worked for a time in the intel service of my country….but before that I was fascinated by spies and the life they lived….so what better topic than to give some history about?
Espionage, or the act of intelligence gathering, is as old as civilisation itself.
In Ancient Rome, plain-clothes military scouts known as ‘speculatores’ infiltrated enemy territories to gather information. And in Tudor England, elite ‘spymasters’ used networks of informers to defend the interests of the crown.
Espionage took on a new urgency in the 20th century, as emergent technologies and global conflicts led to the advent of complex, globally influential new spy networks. Intelligence organisations, throughout World War One, World War Two and the Cold War, deployed elite secret agents to gather intel and ultimately gain the upper hand.
Here are 8 of the most notorious spies in history, from Queen Elizabeth I’s 16th-century spymaster to the Serbian-born agent who may have inspired the character of James Bond.
I have always been fascinated by the history around Mata Hari….
Dancer, courtesan and alleged spy Mata Hari is executed for espionage by a French firing squad at Vincennes outside of Paris.
She first came to Paris in 1905 and found fame as a performer of Asian-inspired dances. She soon began touring all over Europe, telling the story of how she was born in a sacred Indian temple and taught ancient dances by a priestess who gave her the name Mata Hari, meaning “eye of the day” in Malay. In reality, Mata Hari was born in a small town in northern Holland in 1876, and her real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. She acquired her superficial knowledge of Indian and Javanese dances when she lived for several years in Malaysia with her former husband, who was a Scot in the Dutch colonial army. Regardless of her authenticity, she packed dance halls and opera houses from Russia to France, mostly because her show consisted of her slowly stripping nude.
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