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A Divided Life: A Biography of Donald Maclean

By Robert Cecil

‘I was returning to London after taking a week’s leave in France … Little did I guess that one of the men for whom the French police … were searching was the head of my Department, Donald Maclean.

In A Divided Life, Robert Cecil presents the life and times of his former boss, Donald Maclean, one of the most iconic spies of the twentieth century.

Maclean entered the Diplomatic Service from Cambridge in 1935, and from the outset established a brilliant career, with postings to Paris, Washington, Cairo, and as the head of the American Department of the Foreign Office. After fifteen years, however, he vanished, to reappear subsequently in Russia – he had from the start been working for the Soviet secret services, passing back to them the classified information to which he had access. Why should such a man set Soviet interests above those of his own country?

Robert Cecil draws on his own close acquaintance with the man, first at Cambridge and then as his colleague in the Diplomatic Service, to shed fascinating new light on Maclean and his circle of ideological spies, Burgess, Philby and Blunt – the so-called ‘Cambridge Comintern’. Breaking new ground, Cecil probes the circumstances of his initial recruitment and ultimate flight, his breakdown in Cairo, the nature of his marriage and, most importantly, the extent of his access to American atomic secrets. 

Robert Cecil’s own familiarity with Maclean and his circle, together with the insights gained from his wide knowledge of contemporary history, enabled him to place the spies’ activities in their historical context, and makes this biography a major breakthrough in the understanding of the strange career of Donald Maclean.

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