Aphra behn

The Berkeley scandal of 1681 transfixed London society – and Aphra Behn soon capitalised on it

If you want to understand in detail what people in the past were capable of doing, thinking and saying, there is nothing like studying court proceedings. When restrictions were placed on other reportage of human behaviour, the courts had to find out about all sorts of activity. At a time when novelists could hardly write even in the most general terms about adultery, the 1869 prosecution of two homosexuals called Thomas Boulton and Frederick Park could be reported in truly startling detail. One of the best accounts of precisely how people talked spontaneously in the 17th century is the record of Charles I’s eruptions during his trial. Justice was no

All successful spies need to be good actors

On 2 October last year, when he became chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6, if you prefer), Richard Moore tweeted (tweeted!): ‘#Bond or #Smiley need not apply. They’re (splendid) fiction but actually we’re #secretlyjustlikeyou.’ The gesture’s novelty disguised, at the time, its appalling real-world implications. Bond was, after all, competent and Smiley had integrity. Stars and Spies, by the veteran intelligence historian Christopher Andrew and the theatre director and circus producer Julius Green, is a thoroughly entertaining read, but not at all a reassuring one. ‘The adoption of a fictional persona, the learning of scripts and the ability to improvise’ are central to career progression in both theatre