Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History

Course No. 8922
Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
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Course No. 8922
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Course Overview

Hidden deep within the daily workings of governments and civilizations is a secret world of mystery, danger, and intrigue. A world where deception is a form of art. Where people are never who they say they are. Where the tiniest observation has the power to save an empire or spark a global war.

Welcome to the world of the spy—a world that most of us associate with popular fiction and film but the true story of which is more fascinating, surprising, and important than you could possibly imagine.

For thousands of years, espionage and covert operations have been powerful but shadowy forces. Much of world history has been shaped by the dramatic exploits of men, women, and organizations devoted to the perilous tasks and undercover missions that are part of a spy's life. Consider that covert operations have played critical roles in

  • epic conflicts such as the Trojan War, the Crusades, World War II, and the War on Terror;
  • political upheavals such as the American, French, and Russian revolutions; and even
  • cultural moments such as the quest to colonize the New World, the 19th-century expansion of empires, and
  • race to build the world's first atomic bomb.

Indeed, to truly comprehend the forces at work in international politics, whether at the dawn of civilization or among today's sophisticated world powers, one must understand the secret role of espionage and the shadowy world of covert operations.

Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History is your chance to take a detailed and unforgettable tour of the millennia-long history and enduring legacy of this top-secret subject. Delivered by master historian and popular Great Courses Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, these 24 thrilling lectures survey how world powers have attempted to work in the shadows to gain secret information or subvert enemies behind the scenes. Filled with stories that are both marvelous and mysterious, and insights that will change the way you think about some of world history's most defining events, this course lets you peer inside a subject whose truths most people are unaware of.

Survey the Dramatic History of Espionage

Espionage and intelligence have been around since human beings first began organizing themselves into distinct societies, cities, states, nations, and civilizations; for this reason, spying has often been referred to as the world's "second oldest profession." Beginning around 2000 B.C.E. with a clay Mesopotamian tablet that refers to mysterious fire signals between villages, Professor Liulevicius expertly guides you across time and around the world on an in-depth investigation of this intriguing topic.

After an introductory lecture that grounds you in the language and culture of spies, you delve into distinct periods of history that were shaped by espionage and that, in turn, shaped how spies and covert organizations executed their missions. Here are just three that you'll learn about:

  • Ancient and medieval traditions: You'll see espionage at work in a variety of early peoples, including the Hittites and Israelites (where spying was first tied to diplomacy and religion); the Greeks and Romans (in examples like the Trojan War and the wars to expand the Roman Empire), and the medieval Middle Easterners and Japanese (with their secret societies such as the Assassins and the Ninjas).
  • The rise of nations: Beginning in the 1500s, a wave of political, social, and religious changes wracked Europe and gave rise to the modern nation-state. It was during this period that intelligence gathering became an essential function of the modern state. You'll learn how espionage was integral to the rise and success of Elizabethan England, tsarist Russia, revolutionary France and Germany, and America's own Revolutionary and Civil wars.
  • Espionage on a global scale: During the global conflicts of the 20th century, the techniques and technologies of espionage exploded in ways earlier civilizations could never have predicted. In addition to learning about the growth of spy phobia in the United States, you'll find out how new technologies aided in cracking intricate codes during World Wars I and II, how espionage worked to repress societies in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, and more.

Explore Top-Secret Organizations, Meet History's Greatest Spies

Central to the world of espionage, you'll discover, are the covert organizations responsible for both acquiring information from the other side and protecting their information from being stolen. History is filled with such organizations; some successful, some corrupt, some more influential than others.

For example, you'll be introduced to the inner workings of covert organizations from both yesterday and today, including

  • the Assassins, a religious sect of trained political murderers that operated out of a mountain fortress in northern Syria during the time of the Crusades;
  • the Oprichnina, a feared secret service established by tsar Ivan the Terrible in the 1500s in an effort to cleanse Russia of treasonous activities;
  • MI6, the popular name for Great Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, which was first established in an effort to defeat the Germans during World War I;
  • the CIA, established in 1947 by President Truman to replace the Office of Strategic Services to be in charge of all intelligence collection—and which had an embarrassing early history; and
  • Mossad, Israel's version of the CIA, which won a series of key intelligence victories during the cold war and over terror attacks and hostage crises in the second half of the 20th century.

But perhaps even more eye-opening than the organizations devoted to espionage are the individual men and women who served as spies. Throughout Espionage and Covert Operations, you'll meet famous—and infamous—figures, including

  • Sir Francis Walsingham, who built the institutional bases for intelligence services in Elizabethan England;
  • Belle Boyd, who spied for Confederates during the American Civil War and earned the nickname "the Siren of the South";
  • Mata Hari, the archetype of the "femme fatale" who secured information for French and German intelligence services before World War I through means of seduction; and
  • Kim Philby, a highly successful British secret service agent who from the first was determined to spy for the Soviet Union.

A Stirring Series of Lectures

With the same captivating lecturing style he's brought to his other Great Courses, Professor Liulevicius has created a stirring series of lectures that proves why he's deserving of his numerous awards and accolades. Among these: the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.

And, in the style of his other popular history courses, Espionage and Covert Operations never shies away from asking tough questions about espionage or probing intriguing issues and debates, including

  • the psychological motives behind spies—and why they sometimes betray their countries;
  • the relationship between literary spies and their real-life counterparts;
  • the growth (and ethics) of cyber warfare and corporate espionage; and
  • the question of whether we currently live in a surveillance society.

So join Professor Liulevicius for this penetrating look into a world that few of us truly understand—but one that is more important to everyday events than you ever imagined.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Introducing the Secret World
    Professor Liulevicius welcomes you to the world of spies by giving you essential background information for the lectures ahead. You'll decode the secret language of terms such as "covert operations," "HUMINT," "agent," and "disinformation"; explore the various motives of professional spies; and outline the broad themes of espionage's grand history. x
  • 2
    Ancient Espionage
    Travel to the ancient world and investigate the earliest stories of espionage. You'll see conflicting views of intelligence work on display in the Bible, examine Sun Tzu's views on espionage from The Art of War, learn how Greeks and Romans saw intelligence as vital to warfare, and more. x
  • 3
    Medieval and Renaissance Spying
    What was espionage like during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? How was it linked to the growth of the state system? Why were Marco Polo and Niccolò Machiavelli so important to the evolution of espionage? How did secret societies such as the Ninjas of Japan and the Assassins of Syria practice their covert craft? x
  • 4
    Spies of the Elizabethan Age
    Discover why Sir Francis Walsingham, principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I, is considered the "father of intelligence" in England. Learn how he approached his role as a royal spymaster and how he crafted the Babington Plot of 1585. Then, witness English espionage stave off the notorious Gunpowder Plot of 1605. x
  • 5
    Spies in the Age of Discovery
    With the age of discovery and the Enlightenment came an increased need to compete for secrets and information. After spending time with the elaborate spy networks of Russia's Ivan the Terrible and France's Cardinal de Richelieu, meet two of the period's most intriguing spies: the libertine Casanova and the cross-dressing Chevalier d'Eon. x
  • 6
    Espionage in the American Revolution
    Continue on to the American Revolution. In this lecture, Professor Liulevicius reveals the critical roles played by spies and organizations, including the Sons of Liberty, the Knowlton Rangers (America's first military intelligence organization), the agent Anna Smith Strong, the infamous Benedict Arnold, and the ambitious Scottish volunteer James Aitken. x
  • 7
    Spying of the European Great Powers
    Go back to Europe and investigate the covert operations and spy networks of Europe's great powers during the 19th century. As you learn about the role of espionage in revolutionary and post-revolutionary France, Russia, and Germany, you'll see how it was used to help keep entire societies under tight surveillance. x
  • 8
    U.S. Civil War Spies in Blue and Gray
    The American Civil War spurred developments in the history of espionage. Among those you focus on here are the Pinkerton detectives, the Confederacy's Secret Service Bureau, female spies including Elizabeth "Crazy Bet" van Lew, the contributions of African Americans, and the impact of new technologies such as the telegraph and the railroad. x
  • 9
    The Great Game of Empires
    In the 19th century, as European powers scrambled to carve out overseas empires, espionage became increasingly more institutionalized. Revisit this tense and competitive period, where covert operations played a central role in everything from the British colonization of India and the rise of Russian Socialism to the Spanish-American and Russo-Japanese wars. x
  • 10
    Spy Phobia before World War I
    Sidney Reilly's career as the "Ace of Spies." The covert origins of the Boy Scouts. The infamous Dreyfus Affair. Spy novels such as Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent. These are just a few of the topics you'll investigate in this intriguing lecture on society's spy phobia from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. x
  • 11
    Mata Hari and Company in World War I
    Investigate the new possibilities that World War I opened up for both female spies and for codebreakers. Topics include the lives and careers of the femme fatale Mata Hari and the British nurse Edith Cavell, as well as the increasing shift in espionage from human intelligence to communication interception. x
  • 12
    Subversion—Lawrence of Arabia and Lenin
    Many covert operations during World War I aimed to subvert states from within through revolution. Focus on three of the most important: the Arab Revolt encouraged by Lawrence of Arabia, Lenin's Russian Revolution, and the Zimmerman telegram, the interception of which led to America's entry into this global conflict. x
  • 13
    Radical Challenge—The Interwar Years
    Professor Liulevicius takes you deep inside Bolshevik Russia as it defends itself against foreign spies and conducts a secret war with British intelligence (involving the super spy Sidney Reilly). Then, he shows you how America's own fear of Communist spies led to the birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. x
  • 14
    Soviets and Nazis—Surveillance and Terror
    Turn to a different form of espionage—one directed specifically at a nation's own population. The best examples of this can be found in Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Nazi Germany, both of which built unprecedented modern "surveillance societies" that took internal espionage to frightening new levels of intensity. x
  • 15
    Converts to Espionage
    Why do spies commit themselves to espionage? Is it about power? Prestige? Patriotism? Discover the diverse motives behind choosing the spy's life by looking at Kim Philby and the Cambridge spy ring of the 1930s, the Soviet spy Whittaker Chambers, the American spy Tyler G. Kent, and the German spy William Sebold. x
  • 16
    Launching World War II
    Learn the important role espionage played in the buildup to World War II. You'll travel to various fronts around the globe and explore the adventures and deceptive operations of Polish codebreakers in Europe, Japanese spies in Manchuria and Hawaii, and a range of Fascist and Communist spies operating during the Spanish Civil War. x
  • 17
    Covert Operations and Codes in World War II
    Follow along as Allied forces use a range of organizations—including Churchill's Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services—to defeat the Axis powers. Then, take at look at Operation MAGIC's efforts to crack German and Japanese codes, assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler, and other covert operations. x
  • 18
    Atomic Spies and Spy Hunts
    Shed light on the cold war tensions between East and West by looking at espionage's role in the dramatic race to build an atomic bomb, the rise of America's Central Intelligence Agency, and spy hunts and spy trials on both sides of the Iron Curtain—including the infamous trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. x
  • 19
    Cold War Chill
    Continue your look at cold war espionage. You'll follow the drama of the U-2 spy plane incident, witness the CIA's role in international crises, including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, discover how agents like Colonel Penkovsky and Kim Philby infiltrated the highest echelons of power, and more. x
  • 20
    World Crises
    Survey the new intelligence organizations that sprouted up around the world in the second half of the 20th century. How did China's intelligence agency cooperate, then break ties, with the Soviet Union? What was the relationship between the CIA and Iran's equivalent, the Savak? Why has Israel's Mossad acquired such legendary status? x
  • 21
    Spies in Fiction and Film
    Focus on spies who were the literary creations of men who had themselves been involved in intelligence work. After you explore the roots of espionage in literature, compare and contrast Ian Fleming's popular superspy, James Bond, with the disillusioned protagonists of novels by Graham Greene and John Le Carré. x
  • 22
    End of the Cold War
    Why could intelligence agencies not foresee the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe's Communist bloc? What four events were significant in ending the cold war? Why was 1985 deemed "The Year of the Spy" in the United States? Learn the answers to these and other questions here. x
  • 23
    Post–Cold War Spying
    Take stock of the last two decades of global espionage. Survey the changing targets of American and Russian intelligence operations, delve into massive intelligence failures surrounding covert agents like Robert Hanssen and events such as 9/11, and observe the impact of transnational terror networks on the "secret world" of the spy. x
  • 24
    The Future of Espionage
    Are we sliding into a culture of surveillance? Is government secrecy rising? What role should espionage play in a democracy? In this final lecture—which covers everything from the assassination of Osama bin Laden to Wikileaks—take a provocative look at where espionage may be in the coming decades. x

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Your professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

About Your Professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford...
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Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 52.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just like being there For many years, I longed to take an Oxford or Cambridge summer course on espionage, but that just wasn't financially feasible. What a thrill to find Professor Liulevicius's course in the GC catalog! It's every bit as good as attending my dream summer course. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2016-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The best kept secret An illuminating course, that reveals many misconceptions, and establishes the historical basis of many modern fiction.
Date published: 2016-03-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting but not Compelling audio download version It is likely me, not the course, but I was somewhat disappointed in this course, as I mostly did not feel involved with lectures, even though this is a subject that interests me. To be sure, professor Liutevicius is knowledgeable and presents the material in an unhurried fashion, allowing me to understand the material even during my morning walks. The history of espionage is interesting enough and the course structure is well thought out. But for some reason I never felt any real enthusiasm for the material. However I thought that the lecture 24 was most interesting as Dr. Liutevicius really challenged me with his questions and observations on the morality of espionage, secrecy and democracy. This one lecture moved my grade from average to good. Provisionally recommended, especially for those with an interest in the subject.
Date published: 2015-11-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A broad look at spying through the ages This deliciously interdisciplinary course looks at both the literature and the history of spying - which of course are intertwined. Who can resist the intrigue of an intricate spy story? Most of the historical background in this course was engagingly new to me, and the content inspired me to read Kipling's classic novel "Kim" - which was both enjoyable and illuminating in the light of recent decades of intrigue in and around Afghanistan. I wish the producers had edited out the "umms", though, because they were somewhat distracting at times.
Date published: 2015-11-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Fun This course is simply a whole lot of fun. The topic is fascinating, the delivery top-notch, and the information provided was immensely relevant to our modern world.
Date published: 2015-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favorite Course So Far I only have two lectures left in this course, and I'm sad that it's drawing to and end. But luckily I know that there is way more material than I can take in in only one sitting, so I'm already looking forward to listening to these lectures again. I'm fairly new to The Great Courses, but so far Professor Liulevicius is my favorite lecturer. He is a fantastic storyteller, which is always the kind of teacher I gravitate to, and I love how he gradually develops the story of each lecture, seamlessly blending facts and narration over the allotted 30 minutes. I can't wait to listen to more of Professor L.'s courses. Every time there is a sale, his are the first classes I snap up.
Date published: 2015-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning can be fun This course puts espionage into the multiple contexts of history, society, technology, literature and military science. As always, this professor acknowledges differences of opinions. (Military historians disagree over the efficacy of espionage, for example.) The information is presented entertainingly yet is insightful. Espionage has played an important role in history which is usually overlooked in a general survey course. This course provides a remedy to such oversight.
Date published: 2015-02-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from How Espionage Has Changed This is not a course on 21st-century espionage as only 2 lectures apply to this century. This course presents espionage from ancient to modern times. and how 21st-century espionage is developing. In essence, you will hear stories about espionage with their context explained. Through these stories, you will get an idea of how espionage has evolved. I found the stories to be interesting and the professor kept me engaged. I listened to the lectures in the car while commuting to work and always seemed to arrive too soon! On the strength of this course, I have been purchasing the other courses by Liulevicius. I should mention that I was somewhat nervous about purchasing this course as I feared that, based on his name, Liulevicius would have a strong accent. However, there was no need for concern - he sounds like he comes from the American heartland and speaks quite clearly and eloquently.
Date published: 2015-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2014-01-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great collection of spy vignettes If you're looking for a broad view or grand theory of espionage, this isn't it. However, there are many little stories from around the world and through history. He focused on Russia a little disproportionately, but the stories were still interesting. You can pretty much pick any time period, and you will hear stories that you have never heard before.
Date published: 2013-06-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting but difficult to retain information I very much enjoyed the subject matter and Dr. Liulevicius does a great job explaining everything. However, in each lecture, many examples/cases are cited without going into much detail. Therefore, after a lecture, I find it difficult to retain much information since everything was discussed so briefly. I think I would have benefited from fewer examples discussed in greater detail. Overall, it is still very interesting so I would recommend this course for entertainment purposes. As far as educational content, the course covers an enormous amount of subject matter in little detail and, in the long run, it is difficult to retain the information.
Date published: 2013-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You might want this course in your library Liulevicius is unique. His background seems to an interesting patchwork of experiences, perhaps responsible for his uncanny approach to diverse subjects. The following paragraphs suggest why you might find this course useful. 1. WELL-KNOWN PEOPLE were seriously involved in espionage: Alexander the Great, George Washington, Alan Turing, Robert Baden-Powell [Boy Scouts founder], chef Julia Child [p 127], George HW Bush, & perhaps Amelia Earhart [p 120] 2. GREAT OPENERS FOR A SPEECH: might includes stories as: Washington as Agent 711; the real story of the ninja as farmer-guerillas; the hashish-addled Muslims of Aloadin; the origins of the "Jesuiticals"; what Benjamin Franklin & Xerxes had in common in their treatment of spies 3: INFORMATIVE STORIES FOR KIDS: - Robert Baden-Powell, a Balkan spy whose experiences led to his conviction that a boy could do a lot for his country if properly trained. The 10-cent "Wings" comics from the WWII era have many such boy-foils-the-enemy adventures that my grandson immensely enjoys. - One of my most searing memories was the day my father became seriously worried that we were on the verge of nuclear war over Cuba. What I did not know was the fascinating [L19] story of the Russian Colonel whose information to Kennedy prevented nuclear Armageddon. - The French revolution placed power in the hands of the people but allowed the state to make radical demands on its citizens. [The resulting complex terror is well depicted in episode #8 of the world's longest running Sci-Fi show, "Dr. Who", rated for children.] The needed/distrusted spy, Joseph Fouche was certainly a product of his times. 4. NEGLECTED BY OUR CURRENT EDUCATIONAL CURRICULAE: - Walsingham showed that spycraft is silence and listening, not James Bond. Consider the damage that Takeo Yoshikawa caused at Pearl Harbor [p 121]. Definitely thought provoking. - Mistaking a prestigious degree for honor: One of the party boys in the Cambridge spy ring was responsible for the cold war. Algier Hiss [Harvard / Hopkins] also caused damaging historical change. - Black Studies: Civil War black spies like Mary Elizabeth Bowser faking illiteracy [while sabotaging Lee & Davis] or Mary Touvestre stealing plans for the USS Merrimack - Lenin miraculously benefited from the Germans & Russian Okhrana who despised him - A contemporary fad adulating Stalin is eviscerated by Liulevicius in Lecture 14 - Two decades of CIA bureaucratic mistakes include Aldrich Ames & Robert Hanssen. The fact that "most important spies volunteer " coupled with a responsive bureaucracy seems to be a repeatedly unlearned lesson. A contrast with the Mossad seems worthwhile. - The politically correct remorse of a former Luftwaffe pilot that gave Israel 200 tons of uranium [p 156] - The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion [claiming a global Jewish conspiracy] is now resurrected as a miniseries in Egypt - That the women of Britain's Bletchley park's ULTRA center and our Oak Ridge managed to monitor themselves & kept secrets from even their husbands needs study to find out why women so differ from men in such ability and contrasted with a unisex notion of humanity. By WWI, such notions had so devalued women that Mata Hari was executed by firing squad. - Pinkerton's difficulty in meshing a civilian with a military spy network may be a caution in a climate where military reduction seems popular - Pope Alexander VI & his poisoner daughter: money may [or may not] buy good Presidents, but even 20 mule loads of silver can't buy good religious leaders. CONS: 1. Much of this course is a retelling of individual stories because spying really is an opportunity of the moment rather than a cohesive science [as the Dr. Schragmueller story illustrates]. 2. Some have validly questioned why there was not more on SIGNINT. Liulevicius [p 142] asks "...was HUMINT [human intelligence] or SIGINT [signal = technical] more important?" & states his position [p 184]: "...most of the CIA miscues in the last 2 decades have been HUMINT."
Date published: 2013-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Incredibly interesting course If I could only add one thing to this course, it would have been a disc or a few chapters on the specifics of older, unclassified tradecraft. Tradecraft is the specific tactics, techniques, and procedures that an agent uses to conduct clandestine activities. This course has plenty of strategic and operational information in it, framed historically, but I really needed just a little bit more on the tactical level. Much of this information hasn't been classified for a long time, so it would have been easy enough to find. Professor L is my favorite lecturer so far from this site. I've said this before, but he is interesting, educated, well spoken, and even a little humorous. The content of this course, aside from what I mentioned above, is excellent. I would recommend that you purchase Terror and Utopia in the 20th Century first, then work your way into this course. This method, in my opinion, would best facilitate an understanding of all the facets, both covert and overt, of ideological regimes of our modern time. This course is good enough to listen to more than once. It is the only one of these courses that I have already listened to twice. It is presented in a modular enough format to be given as a gift, without supposing that the listener has a large repository of previously researched information from which to draw.
Date published: 2012-11-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun course to listen to The subject of this course is a fascinating one, and is well treated here. It was a bit slow getting started--some of Liulevicius' first examples of espionage from ancient history were a bit of a stretch, and didn't seem overly relevant to the subject. However, by the time he hit Queen Elizabeth's Walsingham, he was well on course for a fascinating set of lectures. At first, I found his use of examples from spy fiction a bit much, but as he continued building the themes, the notions proved very interesting. I found a number of spy novels that I either want to go back and reread or new ones that I want to dig into. The course became particularly meaningful to me as he approached the later 20th century and he discussed espionage cases or covert operations from the 1960s and later. Hearing a brief summary and his perceptive commentary on cases that I lived through was very informative. Liulevicius is a fine historian, and his comparisons and conclusions about the espionage cases he discusses is well worth listening to. This course is not on a par with the superb job he did on World War I, but is definitely worth listening to for a different perspective on history--from the viewpoint of the spy rather than the politician or the soldier. It also does a fine job of explaining precisely why such activities have become such a necessary part of the 21st century.
Date published: 2012-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course I've Bought This is by far the best course I have received so far. It's engaging and as gripping as any novel.
Date published: 2012-09-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fair To Middling [Audio Version] I ordered 'Espionage' with low expectations because I sensed the topic might be inherently self-limiting. I think I was right. The course is a jumbled but interesting recitation of events and micro-biographies. Larger contexts and grand ideas were touched upon but were not rigorously explored in depth or to their fullest potential. Had the professor pushed some boundaries, it may have enhanced the endless stream of spy stories. This is not to say the stories are not well told, and pleasingly curious. The iron fist of political correctness came down hard as the professor scrambled over his material to keep standard gender and race filters fully operating. The student is also reminded that ‘America’ was already here and populated before we ‘discovered’ it. Oh. Thanks for reminding us. But to be fair, I was pleasantly surprised with the evenhanded treatment of Senator Joe McCarthy. In sum, I never sensed that the topics and ideas were thoroughly thrashed out in, say, a hundred hours of turbulent graduate seminars. I came away with the feeling that this is definitely TTC Lite. Yes, the course somewhat held my interest, but was not profound, paradigm-shifting, or brilliant. It’s simply not a ‘great’ course, and, back to my initial expectations, it might well have been the nature of the subject matter itself. Bond, James Bond -- or Bored, just bored. But ... try it, you might like it.
Date published: 2012-09-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from More Anecdotal than Penetrating An interesting survey course, but mainly for the particular episodes and characters that the Professor reviewed rather than any illuminating principles he provided. I didn’t find here a penetrating analysis of the fundamentals of successful and effective espionage. There were examples given of successes and failures, but not what I would call insightful analysis of the key factors that determine success or failure. To be fair, the course covers a long period and there was only so much time available for a close look at the particular episodes covered by the course. However, many of the general statements the professor made about particular eras and events in an effort to provide some background struck me as rather superficial and questionable. For example, he refers to one of the key causes of the American Revolutionary War as being a “conspiracy theory” that had gripped the colonials into believing the British King and Parliament were out to deprive them of their liberties. It was certainly more than a “conspiracy theory;” the Stamp Act and other arbitrary measures the distant King and Parliament sought to impose on the American colonies were clear realities to all. To be fair again, the Professor’s generalizations seem more accurate when he is speaking of an era where he has done specialized research, such as the First World War.
Date published: 2012-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting at Times This course seemed to ramble on quite a bit and there was little to no coherency at times. Instead of being an in depth investigation of the philosophy of espionage, it became a long history lesson with little to no depth. There were some interesting moments where a particular story was fascinating, but these moments were few and far between. While not a completely terrible course, I would definitely not put it on top of my list as a "buy now."
Date published: 2012-06-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Course Needs Improvement Audio CD, my course in this format as all my previous purchases were in DVD format. Criticisms: 1) No IMINT (as some have mentioned). IMINT could have been omitted due to lack of time, as the class I took on “U.S. Strategic Intelligence” focused on HUMINT, IMINT, and SIGINT, but the professor acknowledged the existence of other aspects of the community. IMINT should’ve been included for its increasing importance such as the current debate on the use of drones for police surveillance, which ties into the final lecture involving democracy and surveillance. 2) No DVD version: felt less engaged in the course. DVD could have allowed the inclusion of IMINT & codes, ciphers, and cryptology. 3) No transcript included (a guidebook is included), which caused me to lose track of the info he was presenting. This possibly could have also been due to me being a visual learner, but the inclusion of a transcript may have meant that I would not have had to re-watch lectures to get all the info. As some have mentioned some lectures are fragmented with poor transitions to other topics which contributed to me have to re-watch lectures, but this is mainly in the early lectures (ancient & medieval) and improves in later lectures. The best lectures were American Revolution, Civil War Spies, WWII, Cold War, Fiction & Film, Future of Spies. 4) The subtitle is “A Global History.” The ancient & medieval lectures were the most global in scope, as most latter lectures dealt primarily with the West (Europe & U.S.). When non-Western espionage was mentioned it seemed footnoted,; however, one could argue that since Russia could be non-West and significant detail was given to them, the course includes moderate non-West espionage. But, the non-West espionage was limited mainly to the Middle East & Asia. He does mention an example in Guatemala dealing with colonialism and later the Cuban Missile Crisis. But Latin America, Africa, and the Pacific Rim have many interesting stories and stories of warnings but for conciseness will only include examples from Latin America. For example, Brazil and Argentina have had many conflicts which resulted in a buffer state. There is to this day also the issue of Operation Condor. More generally, many governments have had wars with indigenous. There is also the issue of military dictatorships. A course description, does not look like much non-Western espionage was included: A 24 lecture study of covert ops covering terms (Agent R65), Ancient World (Egypt & Hittites, Bible, Kautilya, Persia: King’s Eye, Sun Tzu, Trojan War, Alexander the Great, Scipio), Medieval & Renaissance (Crusades, Mongols, ninjas, Middle East assassins, diplomacy), Elizabethan Age (Walsingham), Age of Discovery (Jesuits, Ivan the Terrible, Richelieu, Casanova), American Rev (Ben Church, Rangers, Nathan Hale, Ben Tallmadge, Anna Smith Strong, James Aitken), Euro Powers (Joseph Fouche, Karl Schulmeister, Klemens von Metternich, Wilhelm Stieber), U.S Civil War (Allen Pinkerton, Elizabeth Van Lew, Rose Greenhow, Belle Boyd), Great Game of Empires (Tanaka Giichi, Robert Baden-Powell, Reginald "Blinker" Hall, Kipling, Okhrana, Georgi Gapon), spy phobia (MI5, MI6, Sidney Reilly, Capt Alfred Dreyfus, phobia in books), Mata Hari (Marthe Richer, Dr. Elizabeth Schragmueller, Edith Cavell, Room 40), Subversion (Lenin, Thomas Edward Lawrence, Franze von Rintelen, Cheka, Feliks Dzerzhinshy), Interwar Yrs (Palmer Raids, Lockhart Plot, GPU, Trust, Hoover & FBI, Zinovev Letter), Surveillance & Terror (Gulag, NKVD, Nikolai Yezhov, dezhurnaya, SS, SD, Gestapo, RSHA), converts (Cambridge spy ring, Harold “Kim” Phiby, Jay Chambers, Tyler G. Kent, William Sebold), Launching (Enigma, Mukden, Op MAGIC, Takeo Yoshikawa, 5th column), WWII (OSS, SOE, Julia Child, Op Cornflake, 20 Committee, Alan Turing, Op Mincemeat, FUSAG), atomic spies (Daumantas, V-1 & V-2, Alger Hiss, CIA, Vernona, Pumpkin Papers), Cold War Chill (U-2, KGB, Hungarian Uprising, Op Gold, Project Greek Island, Oleg Penovsky, Church Committee, Georgi Markov), World Crises (Boursicot, Shi Per Pu, Pakistan’s ISI, Israel’s Mossad, Savak, Op Ajax & Boot, Op Eagle Claw, Charles Wilson, Op Thunderbolt, Samson Option, Avner group, Jonathan Jay Pollard, Mujahideen), Spies in fiction & film (American & British), End of Cold War (Putin, Stazi, Iran-Contra), post-Cold War (Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, WMD, DNI, FSB, SVR), future of espionage (Op Neptune Spear, Corona satellite, NGOs, corp espionage, cyber war, Stuxnet worm, WikiLeaks, surveillance & democracy). 5) There was an interesting lecture on motivations, but when I took the "U.S. Strategic Intelligence" class, it covered how to deal with spies when they were caught. The friction between the CIA & FBI was footnoted, but there are different views on this matter that he should’ve addressed. Legal aspects of domestic and international law would have been a nice inclusion since spies are legally defended. Did the professor include too much historical background as some previous reviews mentioned? Given the large expanse of history covered some background is required, but for more well-known periods, he could’ve shortened it. At my university, a background class to the “U.S. Strategic Intelligence” class was “National Security Policy” which included historical events and their implications on national security, and the intelligence class focused exclusively on U.S. intelligence. Perhaps less background would have been necessary especially in the later lectures on the Cold War Era for example if a course already covering such background was offered. Some previous reviews suggest that the material was padded to fill 24 lectures, while others argue that there was a lack of time to sufficiently cover the material. I am in the latter category because I found that some of the material could have been elaborated on, perhaps individual lectures on say ancient Greek espionage and another on Chinese would have been better, allowing for more depth, which would also avoid bad transitions to different regions. I bought this course for further info on how foreign espionage was done. It succeeded in that account, but wasn’t as global as could have been achieved. I would recommend it for an intro to Western espionage but not a global perspective to espionage. 1 star lost for no DVD and for not including IMINT, 1 star lost for not including transcript. Overall rating: 3 stars.
Date published: 2012-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Entertaining, but incomplete The professor was engaging and informative. The course, however, is incomplete. Professor Liulevicius covered human intelligence and signals intelligence, but neglected to include photographic or imagery intelligence. His lectures seem to limit intelligence to HUMINT and SIGINT. The omission of IMINT was particularly puzzling since he alluded to it several times, including the Pas de Calais deception campaign against the Germans (included mock buildings and equipment to deceive airborne reconnaissance) and Gary Powers' overflight of the Soviet Union and subsequent U-2 crash. Since he chose to include SIGINT in his espionage course, then he should have either included IMINT or, at a minimum, acknowledged its existence and stated why he was excluding it from the course.
Date published: 2012-04-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A little disappointing I say "disappointing" because Dr. Liulevicius's other course, "War, Peace and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe" is excellent, and so I had high expectations for this course. Unfortunately, "Espionage and Covert Operations" is much less enjoyable. The problem is that it lacks depth and analysis. Each lecture, rather than really making a point, is a sort of "story hour (half-hour) with Dr. Liulevicius," in which he tells us one story or interesting tidbit of information after another, but all in a disconnected way. Some of the trivia is interesting of course, but before long, I was simply getting bored. You simply don't get the sense that a lot of thought has gone into the lecture series. So I really can't recommend it. (But again, I can heartily recommend his other course, "War, Peace, and Power"!)
Date published: 2012-03-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 10 lectures "squeezed" into 24 I bought this because of Prof. Liulevicius's excellent course on World War I, and because of the interesting topic. I found him again to be a terrific lecturer, but this course was disappointing. It really did strike me as 10 lectures worth of relevant material padded to fill a 24 lecture course. Anything remotely associated with information gathering is woven into the course: including the role of Jesuit missionaries in the post-1492 Americas learning about the New World, and the Lewis and Clark expedition. Many of the individual lectures are excellent, including those on Spies of the Elizabethan Age, Espionage in the American Revolution, US Civil War spies, and most of those related to the 20th century (WW II, the Cold War, and post 9/11). The course has many entertaining as well as informative moments as Prof. L dives into the personalities of famed spies, and covers spies in fiction. But overall I found it a mixed bag and one of the very few TC course I don't recommend.
Date published: 2012-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging overview The history of espionage is one of my personal interests, and this course still taught me something new. The prof is engaging and effectively uses stories to make the themes memorable. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2012-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pleasantly surprised I see some of the negative comments on this and while I can see some of the constructive criticism (maybe there was a lot more depth that could have been included), maybe parts were a little choppy in the beginning) I overall thought this was great stuff. I have listened to 3 of Dr. Liulevicius' courses and think he is one of the best presenters at the Teaching Company, and was enthusiastic about getting this series. I listened to it in about 2 weeks, he never failed to maintain my attention, there was lots of interesting information. I think he really shined once he got to the 20th century but there were fascinating bits about the Revolution and the Civil war (especially the information that there were black spies in Jefferson Davis' southern white house in Richmond because the leaders thought they were so stupid that they could talk freely in front of them about confederate plans!). The way he tied together the 20th century from Lenin to the present was really coherent and obviously reflects his specialty and strength. I really enjoyed it, so much so that I found his email online and wrote to him.
Date published: 2012-02-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Full of Info, But Needs Organizational Review Lots of information in this course, but for a very exciting topic, I found myself falling asleep at times. I thought that the course would be more in depth about spies and their stories, but this course is more of a longitudinal history of spying with brief mentions of many spies. The professor droned on, giving us name after name from throughout history, and although he obviously knows his subject, he could not transfer his passion for it to me as the student. Some of the later lectures, which covered more recent events, and included only 10-20 years each, had a little more depth, and were therefore somewhat better. But this course needs an organizational review. Something intangible that makes a great course was missing.
Date published: 2012-02-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Boring and disjointed After having purchased 35+ of The Great Courses/Teaching Company courses in the last 15 years, this is far and away a huge disappointed. It really isn't much more than a 10th grade history course. It's mostly general information about the subject, 90% of which has been shown over and over on a dozen different cable channels alone, and with the programs you get the compelling details as well. So much time is wasted spent reviewing well known general history, say five minutes on the events of the dropping of the Hiroshima bomb, all to say that Stalin knew in advance we had it. 5 minutes of history, 30 seconds of an implication of espionage with little detail. And when the Professor finally does lay off the general history, the stories of individuals or groups often gets chopped up into 3 or 4 small chunks spread across different lectures interspersed with other unrelated events. He insists in lecturing purely in a sterile timeline manner. Names, events, motivations, etc just become lost, as does your interest. I think it can be assumed that those who are buying this course are aware of the basic facts of 9/11, Pearl Harbor, etc. How about spending all that time instead with a few more details of Espionage and Covert Operations connected with those events, which is the course I thought I was buying. The Professor's course on World War 1 was much better, this course was flat out boring.
Date published: 2012-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional Purchase!!! This course is the most compelling of all the Great Courses I have purchased. The professor has taken an exceptionally broad and complex topic and woven it into a masterful story. I have had tangential experience with some of the topics he covered and, from my limited knowledge, he is right on target. I wonder if he could convert the recorded messages into a book! The guide book is a good supplement to the 24 lectures, but much information in the lectures are not in the guidebook. I listened to all 24 lectures nearly non-stop over 2 days. THANKS!!
Date published: 2012-01-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Needs more focus The professor needed to put more focus on one area of intelligence gathering or add a lot more lessons to better cover the intelligence process. In the beginning he makes a good stab at the often misunderstood difference between "covert" and "clandestine" . There is a big difference and unfortunately later he often confuses the two. He initially describes HUMINT (I was a Huminter in the Air Force) and SIGINT. But he doesn't even mention that aspect of intelligence which costs the most and has the biggest emphasis today - IMINT (imagery intelligence (where I now work). I used to work with a number of Balts in humint collection. Great people; but the professor gives a little too much time to the "forest" fighters against the Soviets who were really guerrillas not intel collectors. As he is a Lithuanian this is an understandable digression but it could have been shorter. No mention is ever given to the importance of the intelligence analysts who make up the largest sector of this business. Even in the segment of the Civil War, he misses one of the most important developments - George Sharpe's creation of the Bureau of Military Information under Hooker where diverse raw intelligence was collected, collated and analysized. I was glad to see him give Col Oleg Penkovsky the credit he is due for helping this country during the Cuban Missile crisis. Nice try but being an academic without any field experience of his own there are many holes in the material.
Date published: 2012-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Great Game This course is fantastic! I downloaded it and enjoyed listening to it while exercising. It's an engaging look at espionage through the ages starting with Biblical times going up to the present day. A few tidbits I learned: George Washington was one of the US's first spies. Who knew? The Boy Scouts was founded by a spy master from the experiences of the Boer War About a transvestite (or cross dresser?) spy from France who played both roles, man and woman in his exploits. Overall, entertaining, informative and humorous. If you have any interest in espionage, you will likely enjoy this course.
Date published: 2012-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting thematic course First of all, Liulevicius is an excellent lecturer, in all of his courses. Enthusiastic, articulate, informed. In this course as well. The topic is unusual, which adds to the fun. It's really about a theme rather than a collection of names, dates and facts. One can see the "role" of espionage in international affairs (the countertheme to "diplomacy" so often highlighted in history courses). This course also intriguing in wondering about Liulevicius' professional interests. He does so well in other courses in 20th century history, and focuses so well on the "whole picture" rather than the "great man" approach. So with "espionage" we also see the "whole picture" and the "behind the scenes." Perhaps this explains his interest in the theme. I recommend this course as a good example of how a historian can take a specific theme from the "ancient" world, through medieval periods, Elizabethan times, US Revolution, US Civil War, the Cold War, and trace it right thru up to the present. I would like to see more courses that take this approach to other "off-beat" topics.
Date published: 2012-01-04
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