Keith Jeffery: Belfast historian has been asked by MI6 to write the official history of the real-life James Bonds of the secret intelligence service.

Historians in the News

Queen's University professor Keith Jeffery will be given unprecedented access to the archives of the organisation, which was not even acknowledged to exist until just over a decade ago.

Earlier this year, the Secret Intelligence Service - popularly known as MI6 - launched its first public recruitment campaign and now even has its own website.

Last month, two serving agents gave their first ever media interviews to the BBC in an attempt to attract younger recruits to the spy service.

They spoke about enjoying aspects of the action and adventure portrayed in the Bond films.

MI6 has been shrouded in secrecy for most of its 97-year history, but now wants its history to be told to coincide with its centenary in 2009.

Professor Jeffery, who lectured for more than 20 years, says he is excited by the challenge.

All institutions, no matter how secretive, like to have their histories told, he says. However, MI6 telling its history seems "counter-cultural".

For Your Eyes Only... MI6 has always been shrouded in secrecy

At the end of the research and writing process, there will be a "filter" to comply with the necessary security constraints, but the academic insists there will be no barriers to access.

"It would be a deal-breaker if there is not full access and I have no reason to doubt that's what I will have," he says.

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