A Short History of Deception | Mechanics' Institute

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A Short History of Deception
with Myles Dungan

The art of deception has been an integral part of our human story, one where we want, but rarely get, all the sordid details. Even our myths (the Wooden Horse of Troy) abound with instances of inspired duplicity. The resourcefulness required to steal weighty secrets from your enemies (and sometimes from your friends) and the degree of ingenuity involved in laying false trails to bamboozle and misdirect—and to convince the world that you don’t exist—have often been the difference between success and failure in war, revolution, organized crime, and competitive chess (though we won’t be dealing with the latter either). This close study of the wild goose chase and the double bluff will examine the chicanery with which Sir Francis Walsingham stabilized the Protestant revolution, how Bletchley Park knew what the Germans were doing before they did themselves, and why the initials KGB still sound more awe-inspiring than CIA. This offering is free for Mechanics Institute members, or $20 for non-members.

This serial, presented by Myles Dungan, will be held during the first and third Mondays in November and December 2023: November 6 and 20 and December 4 and 18 from 12:00-1:00 pm in the 4th Floor Board Room at Mechanics' Institute.


About the Presenter

Myles Dungan is an Irish historian, broadcaster and occasional writer of fiction. He has written on subjects as far apart as the American West and the House of Commons, and as closely connected as serial killing and professional golf. He has won absolutely no awards whatsoever for writing, as far as he can remember—his memory isn't great—but he is embarrassed to admit that he does have a few for broadcasting. Relax, you don't need to know. He presents The History Show on Irish national radio (RTÉ Radio 1) and is Programme Director of the Hinterland Book Festival (www.hinterland.ie). One position is paid and one isn't. Guess which is which. He has no previous convictions.


Serial Schedule and Content

November 6: Defending the Protestant Revolution: Spies and Spymasters in Tudor and Stuart England

How an oppressive Protestant state spied on, terrorized, and tortured its own people, with the help of the labyrinthine spy network of the Tudor superspook, Sir Francis Walsingham.

November 20: The Man Who Never Was: Spying, Bamboozling and Codebreaking in Two World Wars

From the establishment of MI5 and MI6 during the Great War to the triumphant Operation Mincemeat in WW2, (a dead body and some intentionally misleading papers) - incorporating the codebreaking triumphs of Bletchley Park and the concerted campaign of misdirection before the invasion of Europe on D-Day in June 1944.

December 4: The Cambridge Circus: 20th Century British Intelligence and Its Failures

Sometimes the phrase ‘British intelligence’ comes across as an oxymoron. Especially in the immediate post-WW2 era when the British intelligence services allowed themselves to be bamboozled by an apparently endless series of ‘Cambridge spies’. How Burgess, McClean, and Philby conned MI5 and MI6 for decades.

December 18: From Wild Bill to Mild Bill: The OSS, the CIA and Modern American Intelligence

Gathering From its origins in WW2 as the Office of Strategic Services, to its reinvention as the Central Intelligence Agency, we examine the triumphs and the many failures of US intelligence, stumbling from the highs of its infancy during the Second World War, to the dismal lows of the middle years, the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam.


Cancellation Policy

We reserve the right to cancel at any time and issue a full refund. If you are unable to attend this seminar, please email [email protected] by Monday, November 6, 2023, to receive a full refund less any non-refundable ticketing fees which may be applicable. All fees must be paid at the time of registration. After Monday, November 6, 2023 no refunds will be issued.

Questions? Please contact [email protected].


Members Free
Non-Members $20
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4th Floor Board Room
Nico Chen - 415-393-0103
Register now by using the form below or calling .


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