Steven Maffeo

Most Secret and Confidential:
Intelligence in the Age of Nelson


NOTE: If you'd like an autographed, personalized copy of Most Secret and Confidential, go to the "contact page" of this site, shoot me an email, and we'll take care of business.


“Here is a book to be devoured by every military professional ... an insightful, magnificent history, exquisitely researched and brilliantly written.”
—Stephen Coonts, 17-times New York Times best-selling author, including Flight of the Intruder and The Disciple

“A very worthy effort and a massive piece of scholarship ... many congratulations on your splendid work.”
—Captain Richard Woodman, FRHistS, FNI, Elder Brother at Trinity House, London, and author of over 50 books including the 14 Nathaniel Drinkwater “age-of-sail” novels

“I really liked it ... I rather wish [it] had come out much sooner, say back in ’92!”
—Dewey Lambdin, author of the eight Alan Lewrie “age of sail” novels

“Absolutely fascinating; I look forward to perusing it in depth."
—Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, RN, formerly First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff

“Exquisitely researched and documented ... Although scholarly, this book is engagingly written and will fascinate anyone.”
—Rear Admiral Thomas Brooks, USN, formerly Director of Naval Intelligence

“This book is a ‘must read’ for not only civilian and military intelligence personnel ... but also—definitely—operators and warriors who must utilize intelligence to win in battle.”
—Rear Admiral Howard Roop, USN, formerly Deputy Director of the Naval Reserve

“A standard reference and required reading for new naval intelligence officers as well as other intelligence professionals ... I also recommend this book to all who find themselves in command.”
—Rear Admiral Bruce Black, USN, formerly Commander Navy Reserve Intelligence Command

“A fresh perspective on naval operations in the wars of the French Revolution and Empire ... Maffeo takes the focus beyond the ships, fleets, and battles of the era, important as they were, to the wider political, strategic, and diplomatic context ... A thoughtful, stimulating, and important overview."
—Prof. Andrew Lambert, the Laughton Professor of Naval History at King’s College, London

“Helpful and readable ... [contrasting] with Clausewitz’s well-known disparagement of intelligence on land ... the author portrays information on the enemy as a principal driver of naval operations at all levels ... More reflection is needed on how [the] intelligence dimension fits into the other ideas of military leadership: this book encourages it."
—Prof. Michael Herman, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, UK

“As a piece of popular history, the book is undoubtedly a success. It surveys the subject fairly completely, it is well written and enlivened by numerous anecdotes, and the author’s professional competence sharpens his analysis."
—Dr. N.A.M. Rodger, author of "The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy," in War in History

“A most unusual [and] fascinating book, drawing on many literary examples as well as an absolute wealth of historical case histories ... A refreshingly new perspective ... This is a superlative work on an aspect of naval history as yet largely ignored.”
—David Manley, Amazon.UK

“A solid examination of naval intelligence 200 years ago ... An unparalleled look at the secret world behind Royal Navy operations during the Age of Sail.”
—Bruce Trinque, Amazon.com

“I’ve much enjoyed Most Secret and Confidential ... A stimulating read.”
—Prof. Jeremy Black, MBE, Dept. of History, University of Exeter, UK

“C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian aficionados, as well as naval history buffs, will want this valuable volume on their shelves.”
—Major General John W. Huston, Ph.D., Emeritus Prof. of History, U.S. Naval Academy

“The author writes well and his examples of ‘the real thing’ ... are most readable ... A lively book for the general reader which will deepen understanding of the ways in which naval officers had to think at a time when it might take weeks, or months, for orders to reach them from the Admiralty.”
—Tom Pocock, British author, defense correspondent, and Nelson/​age-of-sail expert, in the Naval Review

“Maffeo’s discussion of the attributes that contributed to the success of a commanding or flag officer is most impressive ... The book is the first to address its subject directly, and ... it is a valuable addition to the literature. It reads well, and although its subject matter will appeal to a professional audience, any adult reader will have little difficulty understanding it.”
—Prof. Emeritus Robert Erwin Johnson, University of Alabama, in History: Reviews of New Books

“A ground-breaking look at a very neglected subject ... Most Secret and Confidential, which is not afraid to use references to the well-researched treatments of such fictionally famous admirals as Hornblower and Aubrey, would make useful reading for anyone interested in sea power in the age of sail, the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, and the history of intelligence.”
—Dr. Albert A. Nofi, in the New York Military Affairs Symposium Newsletter

“Maffeo is particularly good at detailing how frigates ... served as the eyes, ears, and mouth of the fleet ... I found one of the more enlightening discussions to be Maffeo’s description of how sparse and small the typical commander’s staff was and, therefore, how personality-dependent such intelligence operations were ... Most Secret and Confidential is a fascinating and rewarding account that would be useful to military officers of all ranks and services.”
—Colonel Phillip S. Meilinger, Ph.D., in the Aerospace Power Journal

“An exceptional study ... [Maffeo’s] knowledge of the history of intelligence operations is excellent, and his knowledge of the British Navy of this era is unsurpassed ... This book is a must read for every intelligence officer or any other member of the military ... [as well as] every serious reader of the history of military intelligence, military and naval history, general history, and naval fiction.”
—Michael Riggle, in the [U.S.] Naval War College Review

“A welcome account ... [stemming] from the lucidity of the text, its readability, and the meticulous craft of organization and citation. The book is beautifully produced with appropriate illustrations ... the printing is fault free ... A clear and lively account ... What the volume does that is valuable is to bring together information which, if already known, was widely separated. This makes Maffeo’s account a splendid launching pad for readers who have not read his sources first.”
—Prof. J.M.P. McErlean, in the International Journal of Maritime History

“An interesting perspective on intelligence as it developed in fairly recent times, providing both a contextual historical update and a professionally relevant focus. Recommended reading, particularly for the history buff.”
—Roy Jonkers, in the Weekly Intelligence Notes of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers

“Maffeo’s didactic method is admittedly attractive. He is an engaging author, and his book should attract a readership [particularly] amongst the public who are familiar with the Forester and O’Brian novels.”
—Prof. Nicholas Tracy, Univ. of New Brunswick, in The Mariner’s Mirror

“It is instructive to compare the French approach with the British intelligence system of the same era, outlined in the useful study by Steven Maffeo.”
—Dr. Peter Jackson, University of Wales

“Maffeo makes interesting points on codes, ciphers and cryptography ... [and his] description of the period’s primitive communications technology, the lack of a structure to service the use and collection of intelligence, and its dispersal among government departments and agencies is lively and engaging, and he correctly emphasizes the role of the commander in the interpretation of intelligence ... The appendices are helpful to those unfamiliar with the period ... Maffeo rightly stresses the importance of newspapers in intelligence gathering.”
—Patricia K. Crimmin, F.R.H.S., Vice President of the Navy Records Society (UK)

“Enlightening. Maffeo provides valuable insight into the workings and arrangement of the British government and the civil management of the Royal Navy.”
—Capt. J. R. McLeary, in the Nautical Research Journal

“Marvelous insight to the thoughts of some of the era’s most important figures: Bonaparte, Nelson, Pitt, Spencer, and St. Vincent ... they aid our understanding of this rich period and will appeal to all naval history buffs.”
—Louis Kruh, in Cryptologia

Selected Works

Nonfiction: Naval History
U.S. Navy Codebreakers, Linguists, and Intelligence Officers against Japan, 1910-1941--A Biographical Dictionary "This volume will remain the standard reference for information about the Navy's intelligence personnel before and during World War II."
—Elliot Carlson, in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings
Most Secret and Confidential:
Intelligence in the Age of Nelson "One of the top three naval/maritime books of the year 2000."
—Norman Polmar, in Seapower magazine
Nonfiction: Naval History
Seize, Burn, or Sink: The Thoughts and Words of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson "Monumental ... magnificent! Captain Maffeo has extracted and collected a fascinating miscellany in "Seize, Burn, or Sink."
—Captain Richard Woodman, author of the Nathaniel Drinkwater series
Naval History / Historical fiction
The Perfect Wreck:  “Old Ironsides” and H.M.S. Java—A Story of 1812 "A highly recommended must-read for every naval enthusiast—indeed, for every American!"
—Stephen Coonts, 17-times NY Times best-selling author

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