Saturday, February 13, 2016

17th-Century Female Spies Smuggled Information Through Eggs and Artichokes

In the 17th century, espionage was more diverse than you might think. Not only did female spies exist, they employed some of the most fascinating techniques in their information gathering.
Forthcoming research into female spies that operated in Europe and England at the time shows that they utilized an ingenious arsenal of tools, such as eggs and artichokes, to smuggle secrets.

While Dr. Nadine Akkerman of Leiden University was examining letters sent by Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia during her exile in the Hague, she discovered that some were filled with secret codes...

Akkerman found about 60 such instances of female spies in the 17th century while researching for her upcoming monograph, “Female Spies or 'she-Intelligencers': Towards a Gendered History of Seventeenth-Century Espionage.” British playwright and poet Aphra Behn was one such spy, employed by King Charles to conduct political espionage in Antwerp under the code names "Astrea" and "Agent 160." In collaboration with MIT, Akkerman has produced several mesmerizing videos that recreate some of the ingenious methods used by female spies for their secret correspondences.