Kim Philby is perhaps the most notorious traitor in British History and the archetypal spy: ingenious, charming and deceitful. The reluctance of the British and Russian governments to reveal full details of his career meant that for many years a shortage of evidence fuelled controversy. Was Philby an ideological spy, working for the Soviet Union out of Communist conviction, or was he prompted by a personality defect to choose a life of treachery? Was Philby the perfect agent, the ‘KGB masterspy’, or just plain lucky? In this new biography, Edward Harrison re-examines the crucial early years of Philby’s work as a Soviet agent and British intelligence officer using documents from the United Kingdom National Archives, and private papers. He shows how Philby established an early pattern of deceit and betrayed his father St John Philby. But the book also demonstrates how in all the major decisions Philby slavishly sought to emulate his father. This contradicts the myth of independence Philby sought to propagate in 'My Silent War' (his memoirs), along with other deceptions. Later chapters offer the first detailed study of Philby’s work as a counter-espionage officer during the Second World War, examining his rapid promotion and providing a substantial explanation of why he was appointed head of the anti-Soviet section of the British Secret Intelligence Service. Harrison also explains that Philby was never wholly trusted by the Soviet secret service.
Edward Harrison taught history at universities in Britain and America for more than 25 years and was recently awarded the annual prize for best article by the journal Intelligence and National Security (2009). He is currently editing Hugh Trevor-Roper’s essays and correspondence on British intelligence, 'The Secret World' for I.B. Tauris.
Edward Harrison’s study of Kim Philby’s early career as a Soviet spy is original and, by turns, unsettling, revealing and tragic. It is also much more than a biography of what, in French parlance, would be called the emotional and intellectual formation of a traitor.
Such a lot has been written about Kim Philby and the Cambridge spy ring that people may be forgiven for thinking that's enough. They would be wrong. There remains much, ranging from the exotic to the banal, to make the story of the Cambridge spies of perennial interest.
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, Defence and Security Blog
This remarkable, intriguing, and highly detailed study of Philby in his early years answers many of these questions. Harrison has done the historical record a favor by going through recently declassified SIS records and matching what they tell about Philby with Russian academic research into those parts of the NKVD archives that became available to scholars after 1991.
David Aikman, The Weekly Standard, Vol. 18, No.. 43
Harrison set himself the task of finding aspects of Philby’s life that had been missed by a dozen others who have pursued the same quarry, and he has succeeded admirably, even if the occasional detail can be faulted. The pluses far outweigh the few negatives, and those seeking to learn more about the complexities of a man whose name is synonymous with betrayal need look no further. ...Harrison’s valuable contribution amounts to plenty of original digging.
Nigel West, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Volume 26, Number 4
Edward Harrison’s account of the life and career of Britain’s most infamous traitor, Kim Philby, is a welcome addition to the growing literature on the secret world of Anglo-Soviet intelligence history. … The Young Kim Philby, it will be a most welcome addition to this field of study.
European History Quarterly, Volume 44, No. 1
Overall, The Young Kim Philby is a positive contribution to a familiar topic—solidly researched, well documented and informative.
Studies in Intelligence Vol. 57, No. 1