In 1889, the first Official Secrets Act was passed and created offences of ‘disclosure of information’ and ‘breach of official trust’. It limited and monitored what the public could, and should, be told.
Since then, Britain’s governments and civil service have been engaged in the greatest identity fraud of all time – the dishonest and manufactured creation of our understanding of the British nation, our history and our culture.
In this important new book, Ian Cobain offers a fresh appraisal of British history since the end of the Second World War, exploring, among other issues: the measures taken to conceal the existence of Bletchley Park and its successor GCHQ for three decades; the unreported wars fought during the 1960s and 70s; the hidden links with terrorist cells during the Troubles; the opaque workings of the criminal justice system; and the state’s peacetime surveillance techniques.
The History Thieves is a story that reveals the development of a complex bureaucratic machine – from the vast paper archives from the colonial era to the electronic data captured and stored today – that enables the government to operate unchecked and ensure that its secrets remain hidden.
It is a powerful indictment of a political system which defrauds us daily, even as it promises us all the freedom and transparency of a liberal democracy in the Western world.