Alan Judd rss


Bletchley Park was decades ahead of Silicon Valley. So what happened?

25 July 2015
Intercept: The Secret History of Computers and Spies Gordon Corera

Weidenfeld, pp.431, £20, ISBN: 9780297871736

Why Spy? The Art of Intelligence Brian Stewart and Samantha Newbery

Hurst, pp.216, £25, ISBN: 9781849045131

Gordon Corera, best known as the security correspondent for BBC News, somehow finds time to write authoritative, well-researched and readable books on intelligence. Here he explores the evolution of computers… Read more

A meeting between the Vichy and Nazi chiefs, 1941 Photo: Popperfoto/Getty

The cold, remote plateau of Vichy France where good was done

28 June 2014
Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France Caroline Moorehead

Chatto, pp.357, £20, ISBN: 9780701186418

It is with a heavy heart that I pick up anything to do with the Holocaust. Not because it’s wearisome or too familiar, or because — in Solzhenitzyn’s memorable phrase… Read more

Stirling Moss at last year’s Goodwood

Goodwood Festival of Speed

24 May 2014

You smelt them, it was said of the Mongol hordes, before you heard them, and by the time you heard them it was too late. At the Goodwood Festival of… Read more

The Vikings arrive in England during the second wave of migration (Scandinavian school, 10th century)

Civilisation’s watery superhighway

29 March 2014
The Sea and Civilization Lincoln Paine

Atlantic Books, pp.744, £30, ISBN: 9781400044092

The clue is in the title: this is not about the blue-grey-green wet stuff that covers 70 per cent of our planet’s surface. Rather, it’s about how the sea and… Read more

The true father of the navy: Henry VIII embarks on the Henry Grace à Dieu in 1520. Detail from a painting by Vincent Volpi

Empire of the Deep, by Ben Wilson - review

3 August 2013
Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy Ben Wilson

Weidenfeld, pp.692, £25, ISBN: 9780297864080

‘I never before came across a man whom I could fancy being a Napoleon or a Nelson…His ascendancy over everybody is quite curious: the extent to which every officer and… Read more

A Delicate Truth, by John le Carré - review

4 May 2013
A Delicate Truth John Le Carré

Viking, pp.309, £18.99, ISBN: 9780670922790

John Le Carré is one of a select group of novelists whose vivid and internally coherent imaginative worlds are so recognisable that their names have become adjectives — Dickensian, Wodehousian, … Read more

Hasty exit strategy

2 March 2013
Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire Calder Walton

Harper Press, pp.411, £25, ISBN: 9780007457960

For years after the rug was pulled from under it, the British Empire — with a quarter of the globe, the largest the world has known — seemed an unfashionable… Read more

Lord Halifax

A narrow escape

8 December 2012

C.J. Sansom is deservedly famous for his Shardlake crime novels, featuring a 16th-century lawyer on the fringes of the court. But he has also written two successful novels with 20th-century… Read more

An exhausting mixture of boredom and concentration

3 November 2012
The Secret Listeners Sinclair McKay

Aurum, pp.354, £20, ISBN: 9781845137632

The wartime code-breaking successes of Bletchley Park are deservedly well known.  The story of how they decrypted German and Japanese codes, most famously the Enigma, has been the subject of… Read more

I, spy? ‘A Man called Christopher Marlowe’, 1585, by an unknown English artist, oil on panel, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

The English inquisition

8 September 2012
The Watchers: A Secret Life of the Reign of Elizabeth I Stephen Alford

Allen Lane, pp.398, £20, ISBN: 9781846142604

Early on in this fascinating history Stephen Alford makes an important point: because Elizabeth I and the settlement between monarchy, church and state survived, because the threat of foreign invasion… Read more


Downton for adults

18 August 2012

For five weeks from 24 August BBC2 is doing a brave thing: serialising Parade’s End, Ford Madox Ford’s quartet of first world war novels. Arguably the first great modernist English… Read more


Mission accomplished

12 May 2012
Manhunt: From 9/11 to Abbottabad: The Ten-year Search for Osma bin Laden Peter Bergen

Bodley Head, pp.359, 20

Two shots killed Osama bin Laden, one in his chest and one in his left eye. ‘Two taps’ is standard practice for close-quarter shootings — firing twice takes virtually no… Read more

Ways of making men talk

24 March 2012
Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counter-terrorism Campaign that Killed bin Laden and Devastated al-Qa’eda Aki Peritz and Eric Rosenbach

Public Affairs, pp.356, 18.99

Eric Rosenbach is a former academic who is now deputy assistant secretary of defence in Washington. Aki Peritz used to work for the CIA and now advises the Third Way… Read more

Motoring: Snow patrol

11 February 2012

The American poet Robert Frost wrote memorably of pausing on his pony in the snow and looking longingly into woods that were ‘lovely, dark, and deep’, regretting that he had… Read more

Motoring: Value for money

14 January 2012

The concept of cheap and cheerful appeals for the obvious reasons: the prospect of something-for-(nearly)-nothing; the assumption that it does exactly what it says on the tin; the lack of… Read more


Bookends: The year of living dangerously

14 January 2012

Most people who recall 1976 do so for its appallingly hot summer, when parks turned brown and roads melted. Some will also remember that the celebrity culture throve then as… Read more

Motoring: Fashion statement

17 December 2011

In The Spectator of 27 August I reviewed the new Range Rover Evoque despite not having driven it; a narcissistic exercise to see how accurately I could predict my own… Read more

Motoring: Extreme driving

19 November 2011

One week, two convertibles. The first, a 40-year-old held together by rust, with doors so warped I’ve taken them off, the windscreen secured by baler twine to keep out the… Read more

Motoring: Question of speed

22 October 2011

I should have used the Discovery 3 to tow an ancient and heavy horse-trailer loaded with well over a ton of logs. Its V6 direct-injection diesel, with plenty of low-end… Read more


24 September 2011

The imminence of paying for a 17-year-old to learn to drive brings with it the unwelcome question of insurance. Rather more welcome is recent publicity about insurance revealing yet another… Read more

The human factor

17 September 2011
The Art of Betrayal: Life and Death in the British Secret Service Gordon Corera

Weidenfeld, pp.472, 20

Accounts of the secret world usually fall into one of two camps, the authoritative or the popular.  The authoritative — such as Christopher Andrew’s history of MI5 and Keith Jeffery’s… Read more

Motoring:  Feel-good factor

27 August 2011

 Feel-good factor The sloping rear roof-line, especially in white, prompted comparisons with a squashed fag packet. It’s a profile that’s supposed to appeal to younger owners. When I first saw… Read more

The ne plus Ultra

23 July 2011
Secret Days: Code-breaking in Bletchley Park Asa Briggs

Frontline Books, 5 Accommodation Road, London NW11 8 ED, Tel: 0208 455 5559, pp.202, 19.99

The story of Bletchley Park, MI6’s second world war code-breaking operation, has grown with the telling since the early 1970s accounts — although, as Briggs points out, Bletchley’s first public… Read more



16 July 2011

I like books with weather and there’s plenty in this one, all bad, which is even better. Set in London during a cold winter, Blue Monday (Penguin, £12.99) is the… Read more

Motoring: Simple love

16 July 2011

I recently met a gentleman of Dorset who kindly showed me his car collection. It included an Austin Champ, the Jeep look-alike in service with the military 1954–66. Originally intended… Read more