Jonathan Best - student profile

Jonathan Best - photoJONATHAN BEST

I am a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast having completed both my B.A. and M.A. degrees in Belfast. Currently my main area of research is the history of British intelligence services in the twentieth century. My thesis examines the relationship between British spy fiction and British intelligence from the 1890s to the 1960s to determine how far the British spy fiction novels reflected the reality of the British secret services. In the course of my research I have examined over three hundred spy novels and have researched famous authors such as John Buchan, Ian Fleming and John Le Carré as well as authors who have been neglected and whose spy novels have been lost to history including Bernard Newman, Sydney Horler and Michael Annesley.

My research makes use of archival material, including declassified intelligence papers, in repositories in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. My thesis specifically explores two themes to assess how the fiction reflects reality.

Firstly, I examine the novels of authors who were known, believed or claimed to have been former members of the British secret services to determine if their fiction was reflective of their own personal experiences and in turn offered a secret window into the world of the British intelligence community.

The second theme explores the fictional portrayals of the enemy in British spy novels to determine if such depictions were reflective of the contemporary assessments regarding foreign threats, which were being offered by the British intelligence services. I also assess if such fictional depictions of the enemy was a reflection of contemporary anxieties expressed by both the British public and the British secret services regarding domestic, continental and imperial security concerns. My wider research interests include the history of the First and Second World Wars, European and American secret services, British imperial security, particularly in the Mediterranean, and the role of Britain in the early Cold War.

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