In today's world of electronic espionage it is hard to appreciate the difficulties involved two centuries ago in collecting and disseminating secret intelligence in a time of war. Most Secret and Confidential treats readers to a detailed examination of the ingenious methods used to obtain and analyze secret material and deliver it to operational forces at sea. It brings together information from a variety of sources to provide the first concise analysis of the use and development of intelligence in the days of fighting sail. The British experience from 1793 to 1815 is the book's main focus, but it also includes French and American activity. In addition the book examines how commanders used the information to develop strategy and tactics and win—or sometime lose—battles.
The role of this "dark craft" is illustrated by concentrating on the experiences of Lord Nelson and his contemporaries. Reading at times like a cloak-and-dagger mystery, the story is filled with examples of how Nelson and his associates dealt with intelligence obstacles and how the outcomes affected their own futures, and, in some cases, the history of the modern world. Maffeo's anecdotes give marvelous insight into the thoughts of the era's important figures and his winning combination of vibrant narrative and zeal for accuracy assures this new paperback a place in the libraries of military and intelligence professionals and historians.
Steve Maffeo, a former naval intelligence officer, is Associate Library Director at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He holds master’s degrees from Denver University and the National Defense Intelligence College and lives in Colorado Springs, CO.
Praise for Most Secret and Confidential
“A thoughtful, insightful, magnificent history, exquisitely researched and brilliantly written.”
— Stephen Coonts, author of Flight of the Intruder
“The best documented work on British intelligence in the 18th Century, with an emphasis on late 18th century naval intelligence.”
— Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies
“Most Secret and Confidential is a long overdue look at historical intelligence. Few volumes make more than brief mentions of it, which makes this one an invaluable resource for students of the Royal Navy during the Age of Nelson, as well as anyone fascinated by intelligence, both in the past and the present. Maffeo succinctly explores how information was collected, analyzed, and disseminated, as well as examining the strategies and tactics that were employed. At times, he shows how the past is relevant to the gathering and use of intelligence today and how they differ."
— Pirates and Privateer