It is often said that history is decided in a few vital moments. Wether it be the second to second actions of a general that affect the outcome of a battle or the words of a politician delivering a vote swaying remark, large shifts in the course of history often have hidden catalysts. In Chapter 1 of The Code Book, Singh delves into the undetectable catalysts that resolved two of the most well known power struggle in history.

Singh begins by referring to Greece’s infamous defiance of the ravenously expanding Persian Empire. The Greek’s refusal to send gifts to Xerxes, the Persian King of Kings, ignited Persia’s secret assembly of “the greatest fighting force in history” in an effort to squash the display of insolence. Only by the heroics of an exiled Greek Demaratus and his use of stenography was Greece warned of the impending attack and able to fend off the invasion. As the reader begins to realize the small details behind influential historical stories, Singh’s opening quote from Chadwick (“The urge to discover secrets is deeply ingrained in human nature”) begins to ring true.

I believe, however, that it is Singh’s uncovering of the network of agents, codes, and spies involved in the popularized Babington Plot that most intrigues the reader and justifies why he used these specific examples. From the genius planning of legendary Spymaster Walsingham to the daring exploits of the Double Agent Gifford, Singh corrupts what the reader thought they knew to have happened leading up to the execution of Mary Queen of Scotts.

By revealing cryptography to be behind some of histories most famous power struggles, Singh effectively popularizes encryption and it’s far reaching influence from the shadows.