Long before the inception of The Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a remarkable centrally organised intelligence service engineered covert operations all around Europe, norther Africa and the Levant. This service was created by one of the most powerful and commercially-savvy states of the early modern world, Venice.

    Delving into the early modern era that saw the genesis and gestation of diplomacy, bureaucracy, and systemised intelligence this project uncovers the progenitor of contemporary intelligence agencies and reveals the seamlessly organised state intelligence apparatus that the Venetian authorities masterminded. Exploring the evolution of systemised intelligence through an economic lens, the project contends that Venice’s intelligence apparatus undergirded her commercial expansion that reached its peak in the mid-Sixteenth century. 

    Moving beyond the the overly narrative approach that hitherto works on pre-modern intelligence employ, in order to place more emphasis on the revelatory value of clandestine communication and missions rather than on the social processes that generated them, this project strives to analyse the impact of systematic intelligence on an early modern state’s political, economic, and social security and prosperity. It does so by exploring Venice’s secret service as a complex, fully-functioning public sector organisation, as it operated in the Renaissance period.

    Ultimately, the project shows that the main drivers for the systemisation of intelligence have remained unaltered throughout the centuries. These drivers are economic, not political, as most governments would have us believe.