SpyCast 6.27.23
Ep 592 | 6.27.23

"Venice’s Secret Service" – with Ioanna Iordanou

Show Notes


Ioanna Iordanou (Twitter; LinkedIn) joins Andrew (TwitterLinkedIn) to discuss Venice’s Secret Service. Her research on “centralized intelligence” during the Italian Renaissance has secured her two entries in Guinness World Records!

What You’ll Learn


  • The origins of centralized intelligence 
  • “The Council of Ten” - Venice’s spy chiefs
  • “The Inquisitors of the State” - Venice’s counterintelligence body
  • Venetian power in the Eastern Mediterranean 


  • The rise and fall of empires
  • The relationship between geography and power

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week on SpyCast, we journey back to Renaissance Italy – yes, the time of the art-loving House of Medici in Florence, the dastardly Borgia family in Rome, Galileo, Michaelangelo, Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci: but we travel there to talk about Venice’s Secret Service. 

This week’s guest makes the case for Venice’s Secret Service to be the first centralized intelligence service – something that is traditionally thought to come along around the time of World War I: we actually have to look a few centuries earlier for the first recorded evidence of state organized espionage. 

Ioanna Iordanou is the author of Venice's Secret Service: Organizing Intelligence in the Renaissance, an organizational and business historian at Oxford Brookes University and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick.


If your interest has been peaked by this episode, take a trip to Venice from your couch and explore the Doge’s Palace virtually. Be sure to check out the Hall of the Council of Ten and the Cell of Giacomo Casanova (Yes – that Casanova), the site of a Bond-worthy prison escape.

Quotes of the Week

“Considering some of the most significant challenges we face right now, such as disease, we just got over a global pandemic or migration or trade or climate change or cybersecurity, all these issues do not stop at the borders like any early modern spies, they cross borders. So even reflecting on how people dealt with these things in the past might help us make better political, social, economic decisions.”  – Ioanna Iordanou



*Headline Resource 


*Beginner Resources*



  • Inventing the World: Venice and the Transformation of Western Civilization, M. F. Small (Pegasus Books, 2020)
  • City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas, R. Crowley (Random House, 2013)
  • A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, W. Manchester (Little, Brown and Company, 1993)