Calder Walton, B.A. (Hons.), M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.
Intelligence Historian

Empire of Secrets

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Calder Walton is a leading expert in intelligence history

Calder Walton’s first book, Empire of Secrets. British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire, was published in hardcover in the UK by HarperPress in January 2013. It was published in hardcover in the USA by the Overlook Press in November 2013. It is due to be published in paperback in the UK by William Collins at the end of January 2014.

It is the first book to reveal the largely untold activities of British intelligence in the last days of the British empire— the largest empire in world history, the decline and fall of which was pivotal not only in British history, but also in the history of international relations in the Cold War.

As well as adding a new dimension to our understanding of Britain’s imperial history, the book also has striking resonances for the world today. It reveals the use and abuse of intelligence by governments in the past, ‘rendition’ during the Second World War, the use of torture during interrogations in counter-insurgencies, threats of terrorism and counter-terrorism, and the balance that western countries struck between security and civil liberties.

 Empire of Secrets is available from Amazon (hardcopy) (paperback) and other good retailers.

 It is also available for e-book download and to purchase on Kindle.


NEW! Calder Walton’s book - Empire of Secrets - has been shortlisted for the ‘Debut Political Book of the Year‘ at the Political Book Awards 2014

Calder Walton’s book – Empire of Secrets – won the prestigious Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2013 award


Calder and his editor, Martin Redfern (William Collins), at the award ceremony for the Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2013, January 2013

Empire of Secrets has been shortlisted for the Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award 2013

Lectures and talks

Calder spoke on the first day (16 March 2013) of the The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival


Calder spoke on Iain Dale’s Book Club on LBC radio (7 March 2013)

Listen to Calder (9 February 2013) talking about his new book ‘Empire of Secrets’ at on The Monocle Weekly

Listen to Calder giving an interview  about his new book on BBC Newshour or download the podcast (France’s commitment to Mali, 2 Feb 2013)

Praise for Empire of Secrets

“[an] intelligent, highly readable and fascinating historical account of the emergence of the secret state in Britain…Calder Walton is well suited to write such a book… He has used with great flair a mountain of top secret records…fascinating…He is a worthy and appropriate winner of this year’s [Longman-History Today] book prize.” Taylor Downing, History Today (March 2014)

“…thoroughly documented… fascinating reading.” Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs (January/February 2014)

“… an important and highly original account of postwar British intelligence… [which does] an excellent job of elucidating the part played by British intelligence in decolonization.” Daniel Johnson, Wall Street Journal Booskshelf (3 January 2014)

“… fascinating history of British intelligence… [with a] rich an fascinating analysis of the dissolution of the British Empire…” International Institute of Strategic Studies, (December 2013- January 2014)

“. . . for those interested in the Cold War, intelligence history, and British decolonization, the book proves indispensible.” Karl Wolff, New York Journal of Books (14 November 2013)

“This is a tremendously interesting and useful book – one that works as intelligence history and as colonial/imperial history.” Intelligence and National Security (01 August 2013)

“a long overdue book on the role of the intelligence services in Britain’s retreat from empire… [a] pioneering book on a very complex, and at times uncomfortable, aspect of  Britain’s postwar history….” International Affairs (July 2013)

“Fascinating… moves the spooks from the periphery of history to its heart… A well-documented, courageous and incisive first book by an author who has inhabinted the real world of intelligence rather than a James Bond fantasy… required reading.” Jimmy Burns, The Tablet (6 April 2013)

“tantalising…revealing and fascinating.” Bernard Porter, London Review of Books (21 March 2013)

“… competent, comprehensive and persceptive… It is one of those books that no student of the subject can ignore.” Alan Judd, The Spectator (2 March 2013)

“With fluency and judiciousness, he tells how Britain’s secret services responded to, then helped engineer and fine-tune, and later hushed up one of the most important historical events of the last century: Britain’s often hurried but generally orderly retreat from Empire… the history of Britain’s decolonisation will now begin to be rewritten. Walton’s first draft is acute, well-researched and agreeably lively.” Andrew Lycett, The Telegraph (25 February 2013) Book of the Week

“The overall effect is an entertaining and welcome demystification of the intelligence services and their role in the demise of Britain’s empire.” Josh Glancy, The Sunday Times (Culture) (17 February 2013)

“Walton’s prose bounds along, the nitty-gritty detail of intelligence leavened with occasional flashes of humour… Empire of Secrets is an important addition to the literature on decolonisation. It shines new light into the murky world of intelligence that underpinned the formalities of departure, the anthems and flag-lowering ceremonies, the wheeling parades and high-flown sentiments of nationalism.’” Richard Hopton, Financial Times (8 February 2013)

‘[a] superb and engaging account of the role of intelligence during the decline of Britain’s Empire.’ 4 stars, Rebecca Porter, Daily Express (3 February 2013)

‘There is enough human anecdote and eccentricity in Empire of Secrets’s “high octane” narrative to please even the most satiated consumer of such subjects [Nazis, the monarchy, class and spies]… [it is] a story that often left me wondering what on earth we pay these people for.’ Michael Burleigh, The Literary Review (February 2013)

‘a fascinating history of intelligence and empire. Walton’s book is perfectly timed, as Britain braces for a possible public inquiry into allegedly systemic torture of prisoners in Iraq. Walton provides appalling insight into the use of torture throughout the withdrawal from empire…’ Ed Vulliamy, Observer (31 January 2013)

“Walton is a very good writer. Empire of Secrets fairly rips along, summoning in places the verve of a good spy novel… It is to his credit that he has produced such a gripping, thoughtful and satisfying book on an aspect of British history still largely hidden by shadow” 5 stars, Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph (26 January 2013)

“…a compulsively readable tale of loss of empire, a necessary process of decolonisation overseen by MI5” Iain Finlayson, The Times (26 January 2013)


“Path-breaking and a very good read” Christopher Andrew

“People who believe there’s not much left to learn about the British Empire should read this book. Calder Walton has sculpted a fascinating study of where spy-craft touched palm and pine.” Peter Hennessy

“Empire of Secrets is an invaluable assessment of declassified intelligence records and an incomparable analysis of the cold war, colonial insurgency campaigns, and the British intelligence community itself” Wm. Roger Louis

Other publications and papers

Calder Walton was a Research Assistant on Christopher Andrew’s unprecedented book The Defence of the Realm. The Authorized History of MI5 (London: Penguin, 2009) Available in hardback and paper back.



Calder Walton, ‘How Zionist Extremist became British Spies’ biggest Enemy‘, Foreign Policy (2014)

Calder Walton, ‘British intelligence and the Mandate of Palestine: threats to British national security after the Second World War’, Intelligence and National Security 23 no. 4 (2008).

Calder Walton, ‘Torture and intelligence gathering in western democracies’, History and Policy (2008).

Christopher Andrew and Calder Walton, ‘The Gouzenko Case and British Secret Intelligence’, in J.L. Black and Martin Rudner (eds), The Gouzenko Affair: Canada and the Beginnings of Cold War Counter-Espionage (Manotick, Ontario: Penumbra Press).

Calder Walton and Christopher Andrew ‘Still the missing dimension: British intelligence and the historiography of British decolonisation’, in Spooked: Britain, empire and intelligence since 1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2009).

Kevin Quinlan and Calder Walton, ‘The missing dimension? The role of British intelligence in British policy making in Frank McDonough (ed), The Origins of the Second World War: an International Perspective (London and New York: Contiuum, 2011).


Book Reviews

Calder has reviewed books in a number of leading journals and newspapers. His most recent review, published in The Times Literary Supplement (15 Feb 2013) was of Ian Cobain’s book Cruel Britannia. A Secret History of Torture (Portobello paperback). 

Calder has also reviewed Keith Jeffery’s official history, MI6: the History of the Secret Intelligence Service, 1909‑1949 (London: Bloomsbury, 2010) in the The Times Literary Supplement (14 Jan. 2011).

Calder has also reviewed books for The English Historical Review, The Historical Journal, German History and other leading academic journals. He has also peer-reviewed articles for a number of leading publications.


Since 2002, Calder has given a number of papers at the Cambridge University Intelligence Seminar.

He has also given papers at a variety of Cambridge and Oxford Colleges, as well as Harvard University, Warwick University, Trinity College, Dublin, The University of Wales (Aberystwyth), the Royal United Services Institute London, and the UK Ministry of Defence.

In April 2009, Calder helped to organise a conference on empire and intelligence. The conference, which was held at King’s College, Cambridge, was the first of its kind, and brought together leading experts on the history of empire and the history of intelligence.

Education and employment

Calder Walton was born in California, raised in England, and educated at Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin and Harvard Universities. In 2006 he completed a PhD in History at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a Research Scholar, and where his PhD was fully funded with a Scholarship from the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council. After his PhD, he was a Junior Research Fellow at Darwin College, Cambridge. He has lectured and supervised in the Faculty of History, Cambridge University, particularly on an undergraduate paper on intelligence history, which between 2002 and 2010 was persistently one of the most popular undergraduate History papers at Cambridge University.

Between 2006 and 2009, Calder also helped to coordinate the Cambridge University Intelligence Seminar, which is arguably the most active academic intelligence seminar in the world. He has given numerous talks at the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar.

Between 2003 and 2009, Calder was a Research Assistant on Christopher Andrew’s unprecedented authorized official history of MI5, Defence of the Realm, published by Penguin in 2009. This position involved confidential work on MI5’s history.

Calder Walton is now a Barrister. He works in the Litigation and Arbitration Department in the London office of the international law firm White & Case.

Major Awards and Scholarships

2009-2011 Astbury Scholarship and Queen Mother Scholarship, Middle Temple (For GDL and BPTC courses, City University)

2006‑2010 Post-doctorate research grant, Isaac Newton Trust, University of Cambridge

2006 Elected Junior Research Fellowship, Darwin College, University of Cambridge

2003‑2006 Full scholarship for Ph.D. research, Trinity College, University of Cambridge

2002‑2003 Full scholarship for M.Phil. research, Trinity College, University of Cambridge

2002 Elected Research Scholar, Trinity College, University of Cambridge

2002 Gold Medal award for highest First BA Hons. in History, Trinity College, Dublin

2000‑2001 Visiting Scholar, Harvard University

2000 Elected foundation Scholar and Elected Entrance Exhibition in History Trinity College, Dublin

1998 Economics & History Prizes, Perse School, Cambridge

Other interests and activities

Golf, tennis and running (slowly)

Surfing (badly)
Film-making (New York University summer film making course)
Gliding and radio-controlled airplanes


Calder Walton can be contacted at