The British Academy 10-Minute Talks: Art historian, professor, writer, spy – the extraordinary story of Anthony Blunt

22 Jul 2020, 13:00 - 13:30

The British Academy on YouTube

The world’s leading professors explain the latest thinking in the humanities and social sciences in just 10 minutes.

In November 1979, Margaret Thatcher exposed the distinguished art historian Anthony Blunt as a former Soviet spy - part of the infamous Cambridge Spy Ring who traded secrets with Moscow during the Second World War. Blunt’s unmasking provoked a media outcry that turned him into a national hate figure. In this 10-Minute Talk, President of the British Academy David Cannadine discusses the background to this extraordinary story. And he reveals how the British Academy itself got caught up in the public furore, leading to a showdown at its Annual General Meeting forty years ago this month, on the question of whether Blunt should be expelled from its membership.

A Question of Retribution? The British Academy and the Matter of Anthony Blunt, edited by David Cannadine, will be published on 23 July 2020.

Speaker: Professor Sir David Cannadine PBA, President, British Academy; Dodge Professor of History, Princeton University

10-Minute Talk: Art historian, professor, writer, spy – the extraordinary story of Anthony Blunt

10-Minute Talks are a new series of pre-recorded talks from Fellows of the British Academy screened each Wednesday, 13:00-13:10, on YouTube. Our speakers will type responses to a selection of audience questions in the YouTube comments section between 13:10 and 13:30 on the day of their talk (questions can be added to the YouTube comments section or sent to the British Academy via email).

If you have any questions about this talk, please email

Image: Anthony Blunt at a press conference, 20th November 1979 © Central Press / Stringer / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

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