The University of Oxford may have been just as connected to international espionage with the Soviet Union as the infamous ‘Cambridge Five’, historian Andrew Lownie has alleged.

Speaking at the Henley Literary Festival, the investigator of Cambridge’s connection to the Soviet Union in the 1940s and author of Stalin’s Englishman has suggested that his next target will be a similar ring in Oxford.

Lownie pointed out that the Soviet’s numbered their spies, and there was a “large numerical gap” between famous Cambridge spies Guy Burgess’ and Donald Maclean’s recruitment, and that there were therefore more spies as yet uncovered.

The only historian to investigate an Oxford Soviet spy ring “died in mysterious circumstances” in 1995, according to Lownie, prompting further speculation about past or existing espionage links between Russia and Oxford University. John Costello died on a plane from London to Miami, having taken off “hale and hearty”, Lownie said.

The inquest into Costello’s death was allegedly held behind closed doors, and the results were not published. Reports suggest that Costello died suddenly after complaining of a stomach pain mid-flight.

One of the only known Oxford spies, “Agent Scott”, was connected to a former Labour MP, an Oxford don and a Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Much of the activity of this group remains unclear.

Lownie will begin his research next month, much of which will involve deciphering many personal documents declassified by Russian archives but written in Russian.

For Cherwell, maintaining editorial independence is vital. We are run entirely by and for students. To ensure independence, we receive no funding from the University and are reliant on obtaining other income, such as advertisements. Due to the current global situation, such sources are being limited significantly and we anticipate a tough time ahead – for us and fellow student journalists across the country.

So, if you can, please consider donating. We really appreciate any support you’re able to provide; it’ll all go towards helping with our running costs. Even if you can't support us monetarily, please consider sharing articles with friends, families, colleagues - it all helps!

Thank you!