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Agents of Influence: A British Plot, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Effort to Bring America into World War II

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  44 ratings  ·  21 reviews
"A revelatory and wholly fascinating work of history. Superbly researched and written with gripping fluency, this lost secret of World War II espionage finally has its expert chronicler."

'Gripping and intoxicating, it unfolds like the best screenplay.'

The astonishing story of the British spies who set out t
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by PublicAffairs
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Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having enjoyed Henry Hemmin’s previous book, “Agent M: The Lives and Spies of MI5’s Maxwell Knight,” I was keen to read his latest, about British attempts to bring America into WWII.

‘Our Man in New York,’ was William (Bill) Stephenson, who was sent to the US in June 1940, with instructions from MI6 to ‘organise’ American public opinion. Hemming has personal history with Stephenson, who saved his father, when he was three years old, from drowning and, subsequently, became his Godfather. However,
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 1940 and 1941, British spies resorted to forgery, fake news and outright lies to sway US opinion in favour of supporting the British against Nazi Germany and bringing the US into the war.
At the beginning of hostilities, opinion polls showed that only 14% of Americans were in favour of war against Germany, but in June 1940 William "Bill" Stephenson arrived in the USA with instructions from the head of MI6 to "organise" American public opinion.
Americans were divided into two camps -
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a brilliant book that i couldn't put down for the short duration that i was reading it.

It's a superb story of a British attempt to drag the USA into the WW2 by influencing its government and changing the popular belief of the time from strongly isolationist to a heavily interventionist one in the space of 12 months. The book mainly revolves around the key Briton and his far-reaching network although quite brilliantly Hemming manages to steer away from this becoming a biograph
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Riveting book! Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, A Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II had me at page one! Author Henry Hemming begins this tale with memories of hearing about the Canadian born man that saved his father’s life in a pond in Britain. Depending on who recounted the story, the small details would change but the big details, the meat and bones of the story, never wavered. The fate of his father’s life was determined in one moment by one single ...more
A fascinating and intriguing account of Britain’s successful efforts to infiltrate and influence the U.S. in the years leading up to the U.S. entering World War II. The majority of the American public was not in favor of getting involved and President Roosevelt, despite his conviction that it was the right course of action, was loathe to go against the popular tide, knowing he couldn’t make the case. But the war was not going the way of the Allies and Britain was getting desperate but to no avai ...more
Mr Stan Berger
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I initially said I thought the book was well researched . It raised interesting parallels between a foreign power attempting to influence American foreign policy towards intervening on the side of the British in the Second World War and the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 American election to relieve economic sanctions for their invasion of Crimea . The main difference between the two was that the British influence campaign was laudable while the Russian one was not. At the end of the book ...more
Stephen Meyers
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hemming has written a highly readable account of the efforts of the U.K. to get the U.S. to enter WWII as its ally, and of Germany to keep the U.S. out of the war. The book focusses on Bill Stephenson, the Canadian businessman who became MI6's Head of Station in the U.S., his relationships with top U.S. business and political leaders, and his somewhat unorthodox but highly important efforts to secure U.S. assistance for the UK during the early day of WWII up to and including the U.S.'s entry int ...more
Fake news, disinformation and World War II

Disinformation is as old as humanity. Although the rise of social media has made disinformation even more pervasive and pernicious, but news-outlets and diplomatic channels have always used the system to manipulate the political outcome. In this decade terrorist organization like ISIS and Russian government used the same playbook: ISIS sought to globalize Islam and Putin wanted to influence the outcome of 2016 presidential elections in the United States
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, own, vine
Sure, most Americans are aware that prior to Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into WWII, the nation was divided by isolationists and interventionists. And while it is also well known that Charles Lindbergh was at the helm of the isolationist ship, few were aware that a man named Bill Stephenson, an agent of MI6, was manipulating the country towards more interventionist attitudes. Through what we would now call “fake news,” whispering campaigns, polls, and even forgeries and briberies, Stephenson ...more
Nancy Kennedy
Nov 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Recently, I read "The Darkest Year: The American Home Front 1941-1942," which is about the year 1941 and how Americans for the most part were either apathetic or actively opposed to entering the war then raging in Europe. They came up with ingenious ways to circumvent rationing and other ways they considered the government as interfering in their lives.

That was an eye-opening thought to me. We always got "The Greatest Generation" speech when talking about World War II in school. Ever
Dan Trefethen
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A foreign power's intelligence service works to influence American public opinion through media shenanigans. Sound familiar?

It happened 80 years ago, when the British desperately wanted America to enter WWII in 1940, and sent William Stephenson to America to form a unit of British intelligence (MI6) to convince America (ultimately, Pres. Roosevelt) to enter the war. While Pearl Harbor proved the trigger that did it, the activity by Stephenson's unit worked to sway American opinion to
Sarah Burton
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Our Man in New York is a fascinating insight in to how Great Britain worked to manipulate the American general public in to agreeing that joining Britain in WWII was the right thing to do. The cast involved in generating, implementing and distributing the "Fake News" includes Spies, a President, Hollywood, Business Magnates as well as ordinary people who believed in what they were doing. What was actually done is quite amazing / shocking.

I was given a copy of this book by NetGalley a
Greville Waterman
I really enjoyed Agent M and this is just as good. The story has been revealed by many other reviewers so I won't repeat what they have said.

I loved the amount of reach that the author had obviously conducted and how he draw all the strands together to make a highly readable and historically accurate account of a key moment in the history of WW2.

Exceptionally good and highly recommended.

Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, well researched and well written book that made me learn about a background of the WWII unknown to me.
It can be read like a novel as it's engrossing and entertaining, fun to read at parts and surely interesting.
It's the first book I read bu this author and won't surely the last.
It was a great read, it's highly recommended!
Many thanks to Quercus Books and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Debi Robertson
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
It wasn't until I was looking at Hemming's list of other books written that I realized that I had read Agent M not that long ago. This one was just as amazing. It is extremely well researched and written and full of details I had no idea was going on behind the scenes of WWII. Although, in hindsight, I'm not sure why I was so surprised. I have a nephew who is very into war history and is currently reading my copy of Agent M. This one I just might get him for Christmas.
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Book received for free through NetGalley

I fully enjoyed this book. In the wake of the 2016 Russian influence and all the fake news out there it’s both comforting and scary to see that this isn’t the first time it’s happened. This books is great whether you want to know about the United States side up to the Second World War starting along with learning about fake news and influence campaigns before the internet.
Thomas Lambe
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was given an ARC from NetGalley.

I really really enjoyed this well-written account of the manipulation of public opinion by the British relative to American involvement in WWII. Obviously well researched. This was the first work I have read by this author and it won't be the last! Definitely recommended for any WWII history buffs.
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the history no one is taught in school.

How manipulated are we by other governments ? We hear all about Fake News-and it’s certainly prevalent- but how do we know who is *really* behind it-and why?

Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great true life espionage story written in a very approachable style. Great example of fake news exploitation that makes you question what is really the truth today
Steve Mitchener
It is the summer of 1940. Britain is on its knees. Two airmen stand as combatants. One, the most famous man in the world in 1927, is on a public stage; the other, an unknown, but decorated fighter pilot from the First World War, hides in the shadows. The world teeters on a knife edge. The merest breath of American public opinion will tip the balance. Will it be Hitler or Churchill? Democracy or fascism? Our history … or another future? Henry Hemming leads us through a ‘never-world’ of lies, rumo ...more
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Henry Hemming is the author of 6 works of non-fiction including the New York Times bestseller 'The Ingenious Mr Pyke', and the Sunday Times bestseller 'M'. He has written for publications including The Washington Post, The Sunday Times, The Economist and The Times, and lives in London with his wife and children.