The Philby Conspiracy

Title:                  The Philby Conspiracy

Author:                 Bruce Page

Page, Bruce (1968), David Leitch, and Phillip Knightley. The Philby Conspiracy. Garden City, NY: Doubleday

LCCN:    68020487

UB271.R92 P32



  • London: Andre Deutsch. Philby: The Spy Who Betrayed a Generation

Date Updated:  October 4, 2016

One of the early books on the Philby affair, this book looks at Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, and Guy Burgess who were all firmly part of the British establishment; Maclean and Burgess in the Foreign Office and Philby in the Secret Intelligence Service. All three worked for the ideals upon which the British nation and world democracy were founded—at least that’s what they were able to convince not only the world, but their friends and family as well. In fact all three were highly placed Soviet agents who sold out their nation in the name of ideology.

The Philby Conspiracy is a brilliant look into their careers as respectable pillars of British society and as cunning communist agents. Wonderfully researched, this book looks at Philby’s, Maclean’s, Burgess’s flirtation with communism during their university years and the lengths to which they went to avoid detection. Philby himself served with Franco’s fascists during Spain’s civil war in an attempt to downplay his own left-wing past. For anyone interested in cold war espionage, or for a better understanding of just what can drive a man to treason.

It’s highly interesting to read this book, written by highly competent people, then to compare it with more recent books. The whole affair remains a bit of an enigma.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The authors were members of the London Sunday Times Insight Team. This was the product of several hundred interviews, but none with Eastern European sources. There is no claim that this is the whole story on Philby. John Le Carré in the introduction called it “brilliant but necessarily incomplete.” According to Pincher in Inside Story[2], the British Foreign Office tried to stop its publication and added that its publication focused fresh attention on the whole Burgess-Maclean-Philby affair and on weaknesses in and rivalries among British services. Trevor-Roper in The Philby Affair[3] found it had the virtues and faults of instant history or high-quality journalism but lacked dimension and reflective depth and persisted in some questionable assertions. With the exposure of Anthony Blunt’s role as the “fourth man” and other revelations in and on the heels of Boyle’s The Climate of Treason[4] we have more reliable facts on these cases, but, as Le Carré guessed in 1968, we must still regard our knowledge as incomplete. This book, despite any shortcomings, is still an incredible, vivid story of the official ineptitude and personal attitudes that allowed these Soviet agents to gain and exploit for so long their diplomatic and intelligence positions. For an early leak on Enigma and Allied success in deciphering German traffic, see pages 162 and 163. Consult Pincher’s Their Trade is Treachery[5] for the names of other persons allegedly recruited at Cambridge as Soviet agents.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[6]

A team of journalists detail the Philby Affair, including his lengthy service as a Soviet agent, his rise to senior ranks within the British Intelligence Service, his relationship with the defectors Burgess and Maclean, and Philby’s tour in the U.S. in an intelligence liaison capacity.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[7]

An important account of Soviet espionage agent Kim Philby who worked with British intelligence until his detection and eventual escape to Moscow. Contains details on the British intelligence organization. The authors are a team of journalists from the London Sunday Times.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 355

[2] Pincher, Chapman (1978, 1979). Inside Story: A Documentary of The Pursuit of Power. New York: Stein and Day

[3] Trevor Roper, Hugh R. (1968). The Philby Affair: Espionage, Treason, And Secret Services. London: William Kimber

[4] Boyle, Andrew (1979).The Climate of Treason:Five Who Spied for Russia. London: Hutchinson

[5] Pincher, Chapman (1981). Their Trade is Treachery. London: Sidgwick & Jackson

[6] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence School, p. 48

[7] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 153-154


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8 Responses to The Philby Conspiracy

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