The Secret State

secretstateThe Secret State by Peter Hennessy
Published by Penguin in 2002, updated in 2010

The Secret State is about Britain’s secret plans to respond to an attack on the UK during the cold war and beyond. It covers the rationale behind investing in nuclear weapons and why UK governments chose that rather than a civil defence programme.

It is a fascinating book full of detail from Peter Hennessy’s conversations with key political figures as well as information from documents of the time no longer secret. It makes sense of where we find ourselves now with the Trident programme and the reasons it is hard for governments to make a different choice about it now. It didn’t change my views about Trident and nuclear deterrence but it did help me understand the reasoning behind arguments in favour of it.

I found it quite amusing/terrifying that a large part of the rationale for a British nuclear capability was that governments in the immediate post-war period thought that the US was more likely to start World War III than the USSR, and an independent British nuclear capability would ameliorate that. I wonder if our current government still thinks that.

This is an interesting and informative read and I really enjoyed it.

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