«Ogilvy on advertising», the prequel.

After spending a few weeks getting a solid grounding in opinion research, Ogilvy accompanied Gallup to Hollywood. They pitched their services to the head of RKO studios, pointing out the competitive advantages of measuring the popularity of movie stars, pretesting audience acceptance of movie ideas and titles, and forecasting trends. RKO awarded them a twelve-month contract, and other studios soon followed suit, noting that David Selznick «took to ordering surveys the way other people order groceries.» Ogilvy admired Gallup immensely and gained a deep respect for the value of opinion research as a predictive tool in everything from marketing to politics. He found his time in Hollywood both entertaining and instructive and hobnobbed with some of the most famous movie stars of the day, almost all of whom he considered «repulsive egotists.» As a result of his audience research, Ogilvy discovered that certain marquee names had a negative effect on a picture's earnings, and he assembled a classified list he called «box office poison» that prematurely ended many a career. «There is no great trick to doing research,» Ogilvy later observed. «The problem is to get people to use it—particularly when the research reveals that you have been making mistakes.» Most people, he found, had "a tendency to use research as a drunkard uses a lamppost—for support, not for illumination.»


Stephenson had sent Fleming there in 1942 and had been impressed with how well he had come through the course, recalling that he was «top of his section,» though he lacked the killer's instinct, and had hesitated—a fatal error—during an exercise in which he was expected to «shoot a man in cold blood.» While the camp schooled secret agents, spies, and guerrilla fighters who went on to carry out BSC missions in enemy-occupied Europe and Asia, most of the people sent on the course with Ogilvy had been recruited to do intelligence or propaganda work, had backgrounds in journalism and foreign relations, and knew little or nothing about spycraft beyond the jobs they were doing at their typewriters. At Camp X, Ogilvy and his fellow trainees donned army fatigues designed to help maintain the facility's cover as a regular army base, and attended lectures on the new high technology of espionage, from the use of codes and ciphers to listening devices, and observed awe-inspiring demonstrations of silent killing and underwater demolitions. They also received some limited practice in how to use a handgun and shoot quickly and accurately without hesitation. «l was taught the tricks of the trade,» recalled Ogilyy. «How do you follow people without arousing their suspicion? Walk in front of them; if you also push a pram this will disarm their suspicions still further. I was taught to use a revolver, to blow up bridges and power lines with plastic, to cripple police dogs by grabbing their front legs and tearing their chests apart, and to kill a man with my bare hands.»

Fully expecting to be parachuted behind enemy lines, he was a little let down when Stephenson assigned him to desk duty.

Read between the lines.

The Rosetta Stone survived unread through 2,000 years of further foreign occupations. After the Greeks came Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Muslim Arabs and Otoman Turks – all had stretches of rule in Egypt. At some point the stone was moved from the temple at Sais in the Nile Delta, where it was first erected, to the town of el-Rashid, now known as Rosetta, about forty miles away.

Then, in 1798, Napoleon arrived. The French invasion was of course primarily military (they wanted to cut the British route to India). But with the French army came scholars. Soldiers rebuilding fortifications in Rosetta dug up the stone – and accompanying experts knew immediately that they had found something of great significance.

The French seized the stone as a trophy of war, but it never made it back to Paris. With his fleet destroyed by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, Napoleon himself returned to France, leaving the French army behind. In 1801 the French surrendered to the British and Egyptian generals. The terms of the Treaty of Alexandria included the handing over of antiquities, among them the Rosetta Stone.

Most books will tell you, as I just have, that there are three languages on the Rosetta Stone, but if you look on the broken side you can see a fourth. There, painted in English, you can read: CAPTURED IN EGYPT BY THE BRITISH ARMY IN 1801 (and elsewhere) PRESENTED BY KING GEORGE III. Nothing could make it clearer that while the text on the front of the stone is about the first European empire in Africa, Alexander the Great's, the finding of the stone stands at the beginning of another European adventure: the bitter rivalry between Britain and France for dominance in the Middle East and Africa, which continued from the time of Napoleon until the Second World War. I asked the Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif for his view of this history:

"This stone makes me think of how often Egypt has been the theatre of other people's battles. It's one of the earliest objects through which you can trace Western colonial interest in Egypt. The French and the British argued over it; nobody seems to have considered that it belonged to neither of them. Egypt's foreign rulers, from the Romans to the Turks to the British, have always made free with Egypt's heritage. Egypt had foreign rulers for 2,000 years, and in 1952 much was made of the fact that Nasser was the first Egyptian ruler since the pharaohs."