The Spy Scandal: The Historian - Secrets of the trunks entrusted to the man from Corpus Christi

PROFESSOR Christopher Andrew would make a perfect spy himself. The tall, enigmatic Cambridge don is renowned for being the soul of discretion.

Former students recall "riveting" lectures from a man inclined to say: "There are three sides to this problem." His own research is dispersed on a need to know basis, a secretive quality that has made him the guardian of a goldmine of intelligence information.

"He enjoys keeping his own projects under cover. It is a bit of a joke between us. We try and find out what he is doing but he is always discreet," said a fellow academic.

For several years, Professor Andrew, 58, diligently analysed the archives handed over by Vasili Mitrokhin, a Russian defector, without a leak.

Yet he is no stranger to the public eye. His has long been the most authoritative voice on British intelligence, he is a frequent media commentator, an accomplished television presenter and a prolific author.

President Bill Clinton is said to have handed an inscribed copy of Professor Andrew's book on the United States secret service, For the President's Eyes Only, to his head of intelligence, John Deutch.

The involvement of Professor Andrew, a Cambridge don of modern and contemporary history, in the secret dossier that has formed the basis of The Mitrokhin Archive, has caused little surprise to those in the field. Having co-authored four volumes with the high-profile KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky, it was well-charted territory for him.

A fellow intelligence expert said: "He is quite stunning and has formidable timing. He wrote the best book on British intelligence, the best on the KGB and the best on American intelligence. Punctually every five years he brings out another brilliant book.

"His relaxed and disarming persona belies the hard work underneath."

Professor Andrew is a trusted figure in the intelligence establishment, many of whom view him as their unofficial historian. Instead of risking the Mitrokhin archives falling into the hands of a maverick, MI5 could feel quite secure that the professor provided a pair of "safe hands".

Despite brief visiting professorships abroad, Professor Andrew has rarely strayed far from Cambridge. He arrived at Corpus Christi College as an undergraduate in the early Sixties, when he married Jennifer Garratt. The couple have a son and two daughters.

After a history double first and a PhD on French foreign policy before the First World War, he gained a research fellowships at Gonville and Caius College alongside Stephen Hawking.

In 1985, he wrote Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community and in 1990 he co-wrote the first of the Gordievsky books about the KGB. Shortly afterwards he met Colonel Vasili Mitrokhin with his secret files of KGB operations from 1917.

Motivated by ideals rather than finances, defection had been on Mitrokhin's mind long before he retired in 1984. He had systematically copied thousands of files, buried them in waterproof trunks in a secret location and bided his time.

Just after the end of the Cold War, Mitrokhin approached the CIA and offered to defect but was turned down.MI6 took a different view when he approached their officers in Latvia. In December 1992 they smuggled Mitrokhin, his family, and six large trunks of files out of Russia into Britain.

MI6 handed Mitrokhin and his archive to MI5, who would have carefully debriefed the former KGB man. An analysis of the material found it capable of demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of Western intelligence and counter intelligence over 60 years.

In the mid 1990s British intelligence decided that their "coup" should be made public and introduced Mitrokhin to Professor Christopher Andrew.

MI5's lack of action over the Mitrokhin archive - not passing a summary to the Conservative Home Secretary - suggests that they did not grasp the impact the material would have.

Professor Andrew did. Yesterday some insiders said that the choice of Andrew was symptomatic of the disregard for freedom of information that still abounds within the secret services. They complained that the archives should have been placed in the public record office for all to see.

Instead they were channelled through one man, a trusted insider who sits on a goldmine of intelligence history.

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Humanities Teacher

£110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor