“Good Intelligence?” Evaluating Information in Elizabethan Diplomacy

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 1:00 PM
Marriott Balcony A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Denice L. Fett, University of North Florida
This paper examines the role of intelligence in the practice of Elizabethan diplomacy, with specific regard to the valuation and authentication of different types of information and intelligence sought by and received by the government and its agents across Europe. Ambassadors, agents and spies were tasked with collecting specific types of information for the central government, and when possible, were supposed to verify as much of it as possible before sending it to concerned parties. However, in many instances, a desperate need for information led officials both at home and abroad to report gossip, rumors, and other unsubstantiated news as intelligence, simply because some sort of news was needed. Councilors and other political figures worked to verify as much as possible through parallel information news networks. By examining the types of intelligence the Elizabethan government sought and the actual intelligence reported by its agents, we can reconstruct the methods used by Elizabethan councilors to develop an accurate picture of international relations.
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