Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Sir Basil Thomson and the Directorate of Intelligence : a British experiment in 'high policing', 1919-1921
Author: Majothi, Mohamed Hanif
ISNI:       0000 0004 7972 8618
Awarding Body: Brunel University London
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2019
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Thesis embargoed until 03 Oct 2024
Access from Institution:
Within current British Intelligence literature, there is an absence of any detailed examination of the Directorate of Intelligence (DoI), led by Sir Basil Thomson, a policeman. The DoI was created mostly from the Metropolitan Police Special Branch in 1919 by Cabinet decision, primarily to counter post-Great War Bolshevik inspired activism. It became the first civilian domestic Intelligence organisation in Britain, heralding the formalisation of 'high policing', despite the natural British dislike of such 'Continental' practices. This research, utilising traditional historical archival methods, is largely underpinned by Brodeur's 'high/low' policing theory. Firstly, the original English aversion to 'Continental' policing practices is explained with reference to the evolution of the French Police in the early nineteenth century. This is set against the backdrop of natural liberties enjoyed in England. Specifically, it was the suppressive 'high policing' under Joseph Fouché, Napoleon's Minister of Police that was of concern. This was an important factor in preventing the inclusion of such practices when the Metropolitan Police and Provincial Forces were formed. Secondly, in examining the DoI, it is argued that rather than the military, the police were given the domestic Intelligence function for constitutional reasons. Thomson's weekly reports to the Cabinet provide insight into how he organised the DoI to execute its mandate. Three examples are detailed to show its work: the 1919 Police Strike, the Nationalist insurgency in Ireland and associated violence on the mainland as well as counter-Bolshevik propaganda. Thirdly, negative accepted wisdoms in literature regarding Thomson are challenged, showing that despite the DoI's sudden abolition in 1921, it had been efficient and had provided valuable intelligence to government. An aberrant recommendation by the 1921 Secret Service Committee led to the DoI's abrupt termination by Prime Minister Lloyd George. Efficiency was the reason given for his decision, without Cabinet consultation, when the prevailing view among some Parliamentarians was that that the organisation was too 'Continental' in its work, something that was unacceptable with the lessening of the post-war crises.
Supervisor: Davies, P. ; Gustafson, K. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Special branch ; Continental policing ; Police intelligence ; National security policing ; British intelligence history