Thomas J. Schaeper


On his book Edward Bancroft: Scientist, Author, Spy

Cover Interview of June 07, 2011

In a nutshell

Edward Bancroft was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, in 1745 and died in England in 1821.  He is most famous (or infamous) today because from 1777 to 1783 he lived in Paris and worked as a British spy.

Edward Bancroft befriended and served as a general assistant and advisor to Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Paul Jones, the Marquis de Lafayette, and many other prominent Americans and Frenchmen.  He kept his superiors in George III’s government in London apprised of all that went on between the American representatives and French ministers.

The story of his espionage involves aliases, secrets codes and ciphers, invisible inks, messages left in the hole of a tree, and other fascinating topics.

More than all that, however, there is the story of the man himself. After I started to work on this book I came to realize that his entire life was worth studying.  How did a boy born of a modest New England family end up a famous scientist, author, and friend of prominent statesmen?  And why did he agree to spy for the British?