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The Spy Who Came In From the Co-op


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On September 11th 1999 The Times newspaper carried the front page article "Revealed: the quiet woman who betrayed Britain for 40 years. The spy who came in from the Co-op." Melita Norwood, the last of the atomic spies, had finally been run to ground, but at 87 she was deemed too old to prosecute. Her crime: the shortening of the Soviet Union's atomic bomb project by up to 5 years.
At a time when the world faces fresh dilemmas caused by the proliferation of nuclear weapons, this is the remarkable story of a much earlier drama. After the atomic bomb strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, British and American intelligence estimated the earliest date for the production of a Soviet bomb to be 1953. In fact, the Soviet Union went nuclear in 1948, and tested an atomic bomb in 1949. The Soviet Union's bomb coincided with the onset of The Cold War, and threatened humankind with extinction. Melita Norwood was a member of one of those communist spy networks in America and Britain, who by guaranteeing those weapons of mass destruction threw down a challenge to America as sole superpower in the post-Second World War era. This fascinating book sets her in the context of the times, and uses her as a prism and focus through which to investigate the whole milieu.

Dr DAVID BURKE is a Supervisor for the Rise of the Secret World: Governments and Intelligence Communities since 1900 at the University of Cambridge.


An absolutely riveting story of the boiling cauldron of angry conflicting beliefs in Europe and Britain between and during the World Wars. It is brilliantly and concisely told and is essential reading - some of it worryingly apposite today. BELSIZE RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER
[A] fascinating volume. EAST WEST
Burke's knowledge of Russian exiles enables him to provide a thorough and fascinating account of the fervid political and social world from which Norwood emerged. THE WEEKLY STANDARD (US)
Presents not just a study of a now infamous individual and her motives but a narrative of a hidden but important part of British left-wing history. This book should not be missed. CHARTIST
This is a splendid book, exhaustively researched and written in a clear, unpretentious style. GUARDIAN
A valuable addition to the expanding library of works on the history of East-West espionage. TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION


First Published: 16 Oct 2008
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843834229
16 black and white illustrations
Pages: 232
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Foreword
  • 2  The Secret Life of Melita Norwood
  • 3  "Is This Well?"
  • 4  'Neither the Saint nor the Revolutionary'
  • 5  Lenin's First Secret Agent
  • 6  The Communist Party of Great Britain
  • 7  Recruitment
  • 8  The Lawn Road Flats
  • 9  The Woolwich Arsenal Case
  • 10  "The Russian Danger Is Our Danger"
  • 11  Sonya
  • 12  The American Bomb
  • 13  Hiroshima & Nagasaki
  • 14  Proliferation
  • 15  Sonya Salutes You
  • 16  Bibliography
  • 17  Index

The Spy Who Came In From the Co-op

The Spy Who Came In From the Co-op