Bletchley Park and Big Science: Industrialising the Secret War, 1939-1945

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During the Second World War, Bletchley Park, the headquarters of the Government Code and Cypher School, was the epicentre of a vast scientific enterprise which succeeded in reading enciphered Axis wireless traffic on an industrialised scale. Typically, this important intelligence agency has been depicted as a collegiate organisation with a clear Senior Common Room culture. This article argues that Bletchley Park is better understood as major mechanised, military orientated scientific enterprise with vast numbers of employees, a considerable budget and was subject to careful and professionally managed wartime media control which extended for many years into the post-war period. Each of these facets respectively represents each of the five ‘M’s of ‘Big Science’. As such, the agency can in fact, be viewed and understood as an example of quasi-Big Science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-125
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Intelligence History
Issue number2
Early online date9 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Journal of Intelligence History. Smith, C 2021, 'Bletchley Park and Big Science: Industrialising the Secret War, 1939-1945', Journal of Intelligence History, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 109-125..

It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Bletchley Park
  • history of science
  • history of technology
  • big science
  • Second World War
  • Bletchley park

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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