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Countering Espionage: The Expansion of Domestic Surveillance, National Defense, and Targeting the Foreigner in fin-de-siècle France - 13 January 2022

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This talk will discuss the foundations of professional state-sponsored intelligence in France at the end of the nineteenth century, focusing on the moves that early intelligence practice took towards counterintelligence. Professional intelligence became a permanent feature of the French state as a result of the army’s June 8, 1871 reorganization following France’s defeat in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War.

The practice subsequently grew under the watch of a small number of predominantly military men, working at times alongside, and at times in competition with, agents gathering information and conducting surveillance within the police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, contrary to the role normally played by military intelligence services, the agencies and their backers pivoted in the decade after founding from a focus on gathering intelligence abroad to counterespionage on French soil.

This move, driven in no small part by General Georges Boulanger, who served as War Minister from 1886–1887, contributed to the growing paranoia and xenophobia that characterized this era in French history. The talk will outline the steps that surrounded this shift and will highlight the focus on foreigners, Jews, and certain types of women as arousing particular suspicion among authorities and the public infected with “spy fever.”

Deborah will discuss her recently published monograph 'Marianne is Watching'


This event will be held on Zoom, register here.

At this event

Aviva Guttmann

Aviva Guttmann

Visiting Researcher in Intelligence and International Security

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Event details

13 January 2022

Online event