Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Monson Naval Tracts, [17th century?]

Hubert S. Smith Naval Collection

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2011

Summary Information
Title: William Monson Naval Tracts
Creator: Monson, William, Sir, 1569-1643
Inclusive dates: [17th Century?]
Extent: 6 volumes
Abstract:
This collection consists of manuscript copies of Sir William Monson's six books on naval history and theory, written by him in the first half of the 17th century. The volumes contain accounts of English voyages around Europe, contemporary assessments of rival navies and of international trade, and stories of famous voyages, including those of Magellan and Columbus.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1954. M-973.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Alternate Format:

These volumes have been published. See additional descriptive data below for citations of printed copies held by the William L. Clements Library.

Preferred Citation:

William Monson Naval Tracts, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

William Monson was born in Lincolnshire, England, in the 1560s, the son of Sir John Monson (d. 1593) and his wife Jane. He and his brothers, Thomas and John, were raised in the Roman Catholic faith. William attended Oxford's Balliol College. His naval career began in 1585, when he joined the crew of a privateering vessel bound for Spain, and shortly thereafter, he took charge of several small vessels. In 1589, he traveled to the Canary and Azores Islands as the Earl of Cumberland's vice admiral, and in 1591 was promoted to flag captain. Spanish forces imprisoned him in Lisbon between 1591 and 1593, and, in 1596, he joined the service of Queen Elizabeth I. Monson won his own command in 1602. Following a distinguished career, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for several months as a suspect in the 1616 murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. Following his release, he became a government consultant on the subject of fisheries and began to compose his six naval tracts. In 1637, he returned to public service as a member of the Council of War. He and his wife, Dorothy Wallop, had five children. He died on February 13, 1643.


Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of manuscript copies of Sir William Monson's six books on naval history and theory, which the English naval officer wrote in the first half of the 17th century. The cover of each book is stamped with a decoration and the letters "W M." The volumes contain accounts of English voyages around Europe, contemporary assessments of rival navies and of international trade, and stories of famous voyages, including those of Magellan and Columbus.

A selection of topics includes:

  • Volume 1

    • History of English conflict with Spain, ca. 1585-1602
    • Voyages of Sir Francis Drake
    • Voyages of other English sailors, including lists of ships and their commanders
  • Volume 2

    • History of English conflict with Spain, ca. 1588-1636
    • Timeline of important encounters with Spain
  • Volume 3

    • Structure of and hierarchy within the English admiralty
    • Contemporary naval life, including notes on punishment at sea and officers' duties
    • Notes on current Spanish naval strength
    • How to fight naval battles
    • Trade with the East Indies
  • Volume 4

    • Important historical voyages, including those of Magellan and Columbus
    • Voyages of Sir Francis Drake
    • Exploits of Cortés
    • Geography of Africa, inland seas, and the Northwest Passage
  • Volume 5

    • A plan to prevent the French from landing in England
    • Proposals for how to fight a war against Holland
    • The security of English shores
    • Trade with the East Indies and West Indies, particularly for tobacco
    • "A Project how to Ruyne Spaine"
  • Volume 6

    • Trade with Holland and the West Indies
    • "what is necessarie for a plantacon in, Lewis"
    • Notes on salt, casks, and fishing
    • "A Story of 2 Piratts" [Pirates]
    • "The favours England have done Holland" and assessments of Holland
    • The books of Sir Roger Williams
Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Africa--Geography--Early works to 1800.
    • America--Discovery and exploration--Early works to 1800.
    • Columbus, Christopher.
    • Drake, Francis, Sir, 1540?-1596.
    • East Indies.
    • Great Britain--Commerce--Early works to 1800.
    • Great Britain--Foreign relations--Spain.
    • Great Britain--History, Naval--Stuarts, 1603-1714.
    • Great Britain--History, Naval--Tudors, 1485-1603.
    • Great Britain. Royal Navy--Early works to 1800.
    • Lisbon Expedition, 1589.
    • Magellan, Ferdinand, d. 1521.
    • Netherlands--History, Naval.
    • Pirates--Early works to 1800.
    • Seafaring life.
    • Spain--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
    • Spain--History, Naval--16th century.
    • Spain--History, Naval--17th century.
    • Voyages and travels--Early works to 1800.
    • West Indies--History--17th century.
    Genre Terms:
    • Tracts (documents)
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Volume   1-6  
    William Monson Naval Tracts,  [17th century?]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds two printed publications of the tracts, as well as an additional book written by Monson:

    Bibliography

    Thrush, Andrew. "Monson, Sir William (1568?-1643)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.