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The function of espionage in British foreign relations, with special reference to the diplomatic career of Francis Drake 1793-1804

Waterson, Ian Robert Charles (2002) The function of espionage in British foreign relations, with special reference to the diplomatic career of Francis Drake 1793-1804. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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During the turbulent years of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods Britain’s most daring and committed troops did not wear the King’s uniform. They were the clandestine fighters - the spies, informers, couriers, and guerrilla rebels. Their generals were the British diplomats abroad.

This thesis analyses the role of Francis Drake during his career as head of missions in Italy and Germany from 1793 to 1804. His title as diplomat was a cover for his real role of spy-master and facilitator of counter-revolutionary rebellion. This study will demonstrate the methodology he employed, the influence his presence had on events, and the part espionage played as a valued and important element of Britain’s strategy. It will be shown that Drake’s role was comparable with that of his colleagues and that these findings are applicable to the wider field of British foreign relations and diplomacy.

The thesis starts with a chapter on Drake’s early experiences in setting up information networks during his first mission to Italy. The next chapter follows this developmental process through his second period in Italy, under the changed circumstances of being part of a larger British plan of counter-revolutionary insurrection. This is followed by a detailed study of one agent who served as a controller of a network. This is further developed by a chapter which studies the role of three very different operatives. Then follows a chapter intended to correct the existing historiographical misunderstanding of Drake and Britain’s relationship with the comte d’Antraigues. The study then moves to Drake’s two missions in Germany, first with an investigation into the antipathy that developed between him and his controller, William Wickham. Then follows a reappraisal of the evidence concerning a plot which had Drake chased out of Europe and Britain forced to justify its diplomatic system. A concluding chapter places the preceding findings within the context of the wider structure of foreign relations. This thesis suggests that the covert activity of information-gathering and preparation of insurrectionary movements was as important to Britain’s planning and as material to the flow of actual events as any overt military, naval, or diplomatic interaction between the powers of the day.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Durey, Michael
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