James Bond (007) is a global brand: since his ‘birth’ in 1953 he’s evolved into a popular cultural icon. Irrespective of the occasional reports of his demise since the end of the Cold War the Bond franchise surges on: a new novel licensed by the Ian Fleming Foundation will soon to hit the shelves. While Bond appears to be a quintessentially British creation, his Cold War adventures unfolded across a global stage and the associated books, comics, films and subsequent videogames have established a genuinely transnational legacy.
Bond’s influence was not, and is not merely confined to the ‘West’. The rise of ‘Bondmania’ in the 1960s produced a Bondian narrative which exerted an influence across both the Iron and Bamboo curtains, triggering an explosion of enthusiasm for espionage as a subject in popular culture. The Cold War has increasingly been projected into popular memory through the prism of spy fiction. But since 1989 the Bondian vision of the Cold War has crossed old ideological boundaries blurring trans-Bloc perspectives and establishing new legacies.
While spies’ contribution to the course and conclusion of the Cold War remains disputed by historians, and memories of Cold War may be receding, the cultural memories of fictional Cold War spies remains a hugely dynamic and influential arena of popular memory. The European Communist narrative has largely been replaced by Western interpretations of history, but the conflict remains a great reservoir of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and others. Like Bond, other Cold War spies don’t seem to be dying off either, they are being endlessly reimagined and re-booted.
We’ll be discussing these issues over two days on an open free conference with Gill Bennett, OBE, Chief Historian of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office from 1995-2005 and an expert on British intelligence; Dr Muriel Blaive from Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague; Dr Christopher Moran (University of Warwick) co-editor of the Journal of Intelligence History; Dr Monica Germanà (University of Westminster) and Ron Forgal (University of Haifa) in conversation with ex-Mossad agent Avner Avraham about the difficulties of putting spies on the screen.
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