Universiteit Leiden

nl en


Spycraft: Tricks and Tools of the Dangerous Trade from Elizabeth I to the Restoration

Shining a light on the nefarious netherworlds of espionage, this is the first book to concentrate on the actual techniques and technologies used by early modern spies —from ciphers to counterfeiting, invisible inks to assassination

Nadine Akkerman, Pete Langman
25 June 2024
Publisher: Yale University Press

Early modern Europe was a hotbed of espionage, where spies, spy-catchers, and conspirators pitted their wits against each other in deadly games of hide and seek. Theirs was a dangerous trade—only those who mastered thelatest techniques would survive.

In this engaging, accessible account, Nadine Akkerman and Pete Langman explore the methods spies actually used in the period, including disguises, invisible inks, and even poisons. Drawing on a vast array of archival sources, they show how understanding the tricks and tools of espionage allows us to re-imagine well-known stories such as the Babington and Gunpowder plots. Exposing the murky world of spies, they demonstrate how the technological innovations of petty criminals, secretaries, and other hitherto invisible actors shaped the fate of some of history’s most iconic figures.

Spycraft explains how early modern spies sought to protect their own secrets while exposing those of their enemies, showing the reader how to follow in their footsteps.

About the authors

Nadine Akkerman is professor of early modern literature and culture at Leiden University and author of the acclaimed Invisible Agents.

Pete Langman is an academic, OED bibliographer, author of Killing Beauties, and
manuscript editor for Early Modern Low Countries Journal.

This website uses cookies.  More information.