You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

A History

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

View Inside Format: Paper
Price: $20.00
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

Also Available in:

A groundbreaking history of the FBI, from its anti-terrorist roots in the Reconstruction era to the 9/11 attacks

This fast-paced history of the FBI presents the first balanced and complete portrait of the vast, powerful, and sometimes bitterly criticized American institution. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, a well-known expert on U.S. intelligence agencies, tells the bureau’s story in the context of American history. Along the way he challenges conventional understandings of that story and assesses the FBI’s strengths and weaknesses as an institution. Common wisdom traces the origin of the bureau to 1908, but Jeffreys-Jones locates its true beginnings in the 1870s, when Congress acted in response to the Ku Klux Klan campaign of terror against black American voters. The character and significance of the FBI derive from this original mission, the author contends, and he traces the evolution of the mission into the twenty-first century. The book makes a number of surprising observations: that the role of J. Edgar Hoover has been exaggerated and the importance of attorneys general underestimated, that splitting counterintelligence between the FBI and the CIA in 1947 was a mistake, and that xenophobia impaired the bureau’s preemptive anti-terrorist powers before and after 9/11. The author concludes with a fresh consideration of today’s FBI and the increasingly controversial nature of its responsibilities.

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones is professor emeritus of American history, Edinburgh University. His previous books include The CIA and American Democracy, Peace Now! American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War, and Cloak and Dollar: A History of American Secret Intelligence, all published by Yale University Press.

Click here to listen to an interview with the author on the Yale Press Podcast.

"I would describe this book as a most important work on the FBI. It will change the way people think and talk about the FBI."—Christopher Waldrep, San Francisco State University


“Jeffreys-Jones provides a succinct, telling account of the FBI's checkered history. His book, however, is very much a tract for our own time. Jeffreys-Jones's analysis of our post-9/11 FBI reveals a still-ossified bureaucracy, lacking in any ready response capability—and most importantly, sustained by Patriot Act provisions which have provided more license and authority for abuses of power.”—Stanley Kutler, author of Wars of Watergate

“This new book on the FBI by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones takes its place proudly on the small shelf of outstanding studies of America's top agency for domestic law enforcement, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism. With this insightful, lucidly written, and exhaustively researched examination of the Bureau, Professor Jeffreys-Jones has managed to match his highly regarded earlier books on the Central Intelligence Agency.”—Loch Johnson, author of Seven Sins of American Foreign Policy

"This penetrating and remarkable history of the FBI, authoritatively locating the institution in its changing historical context, illuminates both its virtues and its weaknesses through the revealing prism of race."—M. J. Heale, author of McCarthy's Americans: Red Scare Politics in State and Nation, 1935-1965

'...the us a careful, clear, intelligent chronicle of the FBI during its first century.  He neither exaggerates nor glosses over faults or blunders.'  - Hugh Brogan, BBC History Magazine

"A prolific historian of the United States intelligence community, Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has now produced an informative survey of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. . . . Fascinating."—Kenneth O'Reilly, American Historical Review

"It is particularly valuable for its interpretation of the FBI's origins and historical evolution in light of race."—Douglas M. Charles, The Historian

Selected as a 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
ISBN: 9780300142846
Publication Date: July 28, 2008
336 pages, 5.875 x 9
The CIA and American Democracy

Third Edition

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

View details
Peace Now!

American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

View details
Cloak and Dollar

A History of American Secret Intelligence

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

View details