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Most Secret and Confidential: Intelligence in the Age of Nelson

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  25 ratings  ·  6 reviews
Reading at times like a cloak-and-dagger mystery, this book describes the ingenious methods used to collect and disseminate secret intelligence in the Age of Sail.
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by US Naval Institute Press
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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DoctorM
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you've ever read Patrick O' Brian's novels and wondered about how Dr. Maturin and Sir Jos. Blaine fit in to the world of intelligence and secret services in Napoleon's day, or if you've wondered how the Royal Navy conducted its own intelligence operations...well...Steven Maffeo's "Most Secret and Confidential" gives you a clear, concise, and well-researched account of how intelligence operations were conducted in a world where information was sparse and slowly distributed. Maffeo explains how ...more
Brett T
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
An interesting twist on warfare in earlier centuries is that while some aspects of the combat itself might be conducted under rigid rules demanded by the limited technology available, other things common to modern warfare were much more haphazard. The use of intelligence at sea during the Napoleonic wars offers a good example, as outlined by Steven Maffeo in Most Secret and Confidential.

Maffeo, who has served in the United States Navy in different intelligence-related fields, begins by sketching
...more
Ben Duerksen
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This book does a decent job of conveying issues involving intelligence during the Age of Sail, especially considering the paucity of primary sources one could ever pull from on clandestine activity centuries ago. The two final substantive chapters are particularly informative, though not necessarily new, within the context of some of the prior discussions in the difficulties of intelligence collection and analysis during the time.

That said, I had some issues: first, the book paid some service e
...more
Phil Nicholls
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
All hardbacks are special, but this one is wonderful with cloth-board covers and beautiful, creamy pages.

Most Secret and Confidential is an in-depth look at the limited use of naval intelligence during the Napoleonic era. The technological and staffing limitations placed a heavy burden upon Captains and Admirals, who typically operated with restricted communications. Maffeo contrasts this situation with modern naval intelligence procedures. The final three chapters are extended case studies show
...more
Barry Wightman
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
More research. Love this stuff - the "age of fighting sail", Nelson, Trafalgar and all that. A well-written, deep dive into codes, code-breaking and the perils of lousy communications on ships of the line, the days of Patrick O'Brien's Master and Commander series. Got a terribly important message for London? How does a 3 month lag time sound? Carry on, sir.
...more
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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
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