THE WORLD'S EARLIEST STATE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Contrary to the disparate intelligence networks created by powerful rulers in Italian and European states, early modern Venice was emblematic in its creation of a centrally organised secret service. Most probably the world’s earliest state intelligence service, this was a public sector organisation that operated with remarkable corporate-like complexity and maturity and comprised departments of operations (intelligence and covert action), science and technology (cryptography, steganography and production of poison), and analysis. While Venice’s secret service boasts legitimacy as the world’s earliest state intelligence agency, no systematic exploration or analysis of this organisation has even been done. This is not accidental, since systemised intelligence has been principally seen as a modern political phenomenon. As a result, studies on intelligence and espionage have primarily focused on the period between the eve of WW1 to the present, while more distant eras still remain largely unexplored. Moreover, diplomatic and intelligence historians have placed their attention on the political and military nature of espionage, while the expansionist and economic drivers that greased the wheels of strategy formulation have been overwhelmingly neglected. In other words, the unsystematic historical exploration of intelligence has centred on the latter’s political character and implications, while the social and economic aspects of its evolution and systematisation remain unchartered territory.