Research Intelligence in Early Modern England

Research Intelligence in Early Modern England

By William H. Sherman

Studies in Intelligence, Vol.37:5 (1994)

Excerpt: This is a good place to introduce the early modern intelligence network and particularly the activities of John Dee, one of the most colorful and enigmatic characters of the English Renaissance. Ironically, he evidently used “007” as a codename in some of his correspondence.

On 8 September 1597, Dee sent a paper to Sir Edward Dyer entitled, “The British Sea-Sovereignty: Of the Sea Jurisdiction of the British EMpire.” Dyer was an active go-between at the Elizabethan court. In the summer of 1597, he was acting on behalf of a Privy Council deep in heated negotiations with the merchants of the Hanseatic League. During the previous months, Edward saw its commercial relations with Central Europe degenerate critically. The English Merchant Adventurers were accused of foul play, and the Hanseatic merchants in England complained of increasing harassment. The conflict was waged on a petty level, but it eventually forced Emperor Rudolph II to issue a decree on 1 August 1597 effectively banning trade with the English merchants.

During the next months, the interested parties frantically exchanged diplomats to come to an agreement that would enable them to return to business. It was at this time that Dyer wrote to Dee, requesting historical and legal information regarding England’s territorial rights and jurisdiction in the Channel and the seas adjoining.

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