Book Review: Most Secret Agent of Empire: Reginald Teague-Jones Master Spy of the Great Game by Taline Ter Minassian.

AuthorAment, Suzanne
PositionBook review

Ter Minassian, Taline. Most Secret Agent of Empire: Reginald Teague-Jones Master Spy of the Great Game. Translated by Tom Rees. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. xviii + 283 pages. Hardcover, $29.95.

Ter Minassian's biography of Reginald Teague-Jones (known as Ronald Sinclair after 1922) grabs the reader's attention immediately. In the introduction we learn of the historian's efforts to do the research despite closed British Archives, a spy's penchant for destroying his own papers, and a world-wide tour to track him down! We also learn that, at the end of his life, Teague-Jones returns to Britain and settles into a retirement home with his second wife. Upon her death, Teague-Jones tracks down his first wife - fifty years after their divorce - and brings her to live with him at the home. It is intriguing that his first wife's grandfather was an Armenian Nationalist leader during the time that Teague-Jones was reporting from Transcaucasia!

The book's agenda is to link Teague-Jones to the "Great Game" between Russia and Britain over the territory between British India and the Russian empire. Ter Minassian contends that this game continues into the twenty-first century and that Teague-Jones played a key role in its evolution. She is not alone in making this argument and cites many historians and writers supporting the link. Ter Minassian certainly makes the case that Teague-Jones was intimately involved in many parts of this game. He started his early career on the Indian Frontier, spent much time in Persia/Iran, was in Transcaucasia for the Russian revolution and civil war, knew of the dismantlement of the Raj from New York, and worked to promote counter-propaganda when the United States was pushing for Indian Independence. Although this elite British intelligence officer surely provided key information, and in some cases definitely smoothed out situations, his lasting effect on British strategy seems minimal. In fact, the British did not follow his advice concerning the central Asian region. Had Britain used more force against the fledgling Soviet government at that time, the game may have turned out much differently.

The biography is set up in chronological order running from Jones's boyhood (before he compounded his middle and last names) in Liverpool, to his formative years as a companion to a family in St. Petersburg, Russia during the 1905 revolution. It follows his career from the Indian frontier district at the beginning of Word...

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