Napoleon Series Archive 2009

Re: Intelligence Thesis
In Response To: Re: Intelligence Thesis ()

Hi John, Tim and Bruno,

Thanks for your replies. You raise some excellent points. At this stage I'm thinking that it would indeed be wise to focus on one country - probably either Britain or France. Britain would probably be a bit easier, but I'm slightly more interested in French intelligence and there is even less currently available in English on the French than there is on the British (which figures I suppose).

Marking out the exact scope of my thesis will indeed be a challenge. I think I'd probably avoid purely political intelligence - the spies at court type of stuff. However it may well be worth looking into intelligence gathered strictly regarding military matters, or that sourced from senior military personnel or councils, such as the suspicion that the French were well-informed on the discussions of the Austrian military council in 1809. I'm aware that the distinction between the two may sometimes be hard to make. Operational intelligence is a distincy category of its own, and probably the one that I want to spend the most time on. This would include initial reconnaissance and investigation - something that Nap usually took very seriously, intelligence gathering as the army advanced or monitored the advance of its opponent, and then once the armies come within the same sphere of operations one could broadly distinguish between strategic and tactical intelligence. There is also counter-intelligence and other means of cloaking one's activities from the eyes of others.

Being in Australia, my access to archives is extremely limited (sigh). However I will be in the UK for 6 months in the second half of this year. It is primarily for the purposes of work and travel but hopefully I'll be able to get some research done too. In particular I will be in Paris for a little while. I won't have the time or money for a proper search of the archives but Tim your suggestion regarding the BNF is great and I could probably spend some short though no doubt worthwile time there. Being in Oz an honours student is not expected to undertake significant archival research, unless they're studying Australian history. While this is good for me in that it makes my topic more viable as a valid thesis, my location has a negative effect on the depth of research I can undertake and thus the usefulness of the work for those who may wish to read it. Fortunately the great advances in the availability of material via Google Books, Gallica, etc has gone some way towards assisting those of us far removed from our area of interest. Memoirs, correspondence and orders, campaign and army histories and studies, biographies, staff and other operational manuals and instructions, and the few specialist works like Urban's book are all likely to be useful - the challenge will be in finding those often limited parts that are relevant.

My initial tentative explorations into the material that is available have been limited but encouraging. Intelligence is indeed by nature murky and full or myth and legend. As has been suggested as a topic it will be both challenging and at times difficult. Nonetheless with due care, effort and diligence I think it will be a valid and rewarding thesis topic that could uncover and explore some very interesting and little known material. I shall continue to discuss the issue with my supervisor over the next month and will be sure to let you know which road I ultimately decide to take.

Regards,
Chris

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