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Queen of Codes

On sale

13th April 2023

Price: £25

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781472295477

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‘Uí Chionna shines a light on an extraordinary woman who literally changed the course of history’ – Suzannah Lipscomb

When the history of British codebreaking is told, the story is often a men-only preserve (for example, of the top fourteen listed actors in Bletchley Park-set The Imitation Game, only one is a woman). That perception completely ignores the fact that the vast majority of codebreakers were in fact women. And foremost among them was one who is largely unknown to the public, and whose activities were a secret even to her closest contacts – Emily Anderson.

Anderson was a leading member of British intelligence for over three decades. She played key roles in both World Wars, worked in Bletchley Park and in the Middle East, and was reckoned among the top three female codebreakers in the world. Her work coincided with her other great love – music. She is famous in musicology circles as being the first to effectively decipher the letters and diaries of Mozart and Beethoven. In 1961 Germany awarded her their highest honour, the Order of Merit First Class, completely ignorant of the fact that the interpretative skills they were honouring were the same utilised to defeat their military only a few years previously.

Secrecy was the keyword of her life, as she also had affairs with other women at a time when such was not generally accepted. That few are familiar with her name is no surprise. Even those close to her had little idea that she had such a significant role in international affairs. Now, this startling new narrative of her life, complete with new material and sources The Queen of Codes will place Emily Anderson at the forefront of great British codebreakers.


Physics World
A thoroughly researched and highly readable account of a woman who may have appeared to the world as the epitome of ordinary, but was in truth anything but.
A meticulously-researched biography that explores the secret life of a codebreaker equally comfortable playing the piano or living a life of high-stakes drama in a war zone
The Irish Mail on Sunday
Anderson's role in the war effort, and her very substantial contributions to modern musicology, are now rightly recorded
Suzannah Lipscomb
Some women are missing from history books for the simple reason that - under the Official Secrets Act - they could not speak the truth about their lives. Among these was Emily Anderson, one of the greatest codebreakers of the twentieth century - an unsung heroine of both World Wars. In Jackie Uí Chionna she at last finds her biographer. In unravelling Anderson's story, Uí Chionna shines a light on an extraordinary woman who literally changed the course of history
Dr. David Abrutat, Departmental Historian, GCHQ
Queen Of Codes describes the extraordinary work and legacy of Emily Anderson during the Second World War. Anderson played a key role at our wartime home in Bletchley Park and at our regional centre in the Middle East. She is one of our best, and least recognised, codebreakers. This fantastic piece of work by Dr Jackie Uí Chionna highlights the critical role that women have played in our organisation's history
Sinclair McKay
Completely compelling, endlessly illuminating and richly intriguing - Jackie Ui Chionna's wonderfully written and deeply researched work has at last pulled back the curtain of secrecy from one of Bletchley Park's most extraordinary unsung figures. This is a story not just of a pioneering codebreaking genius, working through two world wars, but also - movingly - about a dazzlingly brilliant woman creating a space for herself and her passions in a rigid world and at a rigid time.
Dr Helen Fry
The groundbreaking contribution of Emily Anderson to codebreaking in the 20th century has been hidden for far too long... until now. One of the most important biographies of recent times
John Ferris, author of Behind the Enigma
This book is a compelling biography, by any standard, and among the best studies of any intelligence officer. That this book could even be written is a wonder of research. Emily Anderson shunned publicity, and worked with British codebreakers who embodied skill and secrecy. That this book is so well written is a delight to match the grace of Emily Anderson's scholarship on Beethoven and Mozart
Claire Hubbard-Hall
As one of the world's greatest codebreakers, Emily Anderson has been forgotten for far too long. Based on rigorous research and brilliant storytelling, Uí Chionna has produced a seminal biography that Anderson would have approved.