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1 May: Black Books Society lecture – Women Spies, Lies and 17th Century Espionage

An etching of a woman standing in left profile but with her head turned almost full face. Her head is covered with black hood and the upper half of her face with a mask; Around her neck is a fur, and on her left arm a large muff. Over a light skirt trimmed with lace is a dark bunched mantle. A high-heeled shoe with rosette protrudes from her dress. Cornhill & Royal Exchange in background.

Espionage under Oliver Cromwell was run by a Bencher of the Inn, his Secretary of State John Thurloe. Thurloe, commemorated by a plaque on Chancery Lane, was a resident of the Inn and in the early eighteenth century a cache of his papers was discovered behind a ceiling in Old Buildings.

Thurloe ran a network of spies and made extensive use of women agents. Though women have often complained of being ignored and undervalued, in the mid-seventeenth century a number of women were able to turn this to their advantage by becoming spies for both the Royalist and Parliamentarian sides in the Civil War. Last year, Nadine Akkerman (Reader in early modern English Literature at Leiden University and Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford) brought their dangerous careers to light with the publication of her book Invisible agents: women and espionage in seventeenth century Britain. We are delighted to welcome her to the Inn to talk about their exploits.

  • Doors open: 5.30pm
  • Lecture: 6pm
  • Drinks reception: 7pm
  • Venue: Old Hall, Lincoln’s Inn