William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
William Monson Naval Tracts, [17th century?]
Hubert S. Smith Naval CollectionFinding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2011
William Monson Naval Tracts
Monson, William, Sir, 1569-1643
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.
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
These volumes have been published. See additional descriptive data below for citations of printed copies held by the William L. Clements Library.
William Monson Naval Tracts, Hubert S. Smith Naval Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
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.
- 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
- History of English conflict with Spain, ca. 1588-1636
- Timeline of important encounters with Spain
- 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
- 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
- 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"
- 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
- 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.
Additional Descriptive Data
- Monson, William. A True and Exact Account of the Wars with Spain, in the Reign of Q. Elizabeth, (of Famous Memory.): Being the Particulars of What Happened Between the English and Spanish Fleets from the Years 1585 to 1602. Shewing the Expeditions, Attempts, Fights, Designs, Escapes, Successes, Errors, &c., on Both Sides. With the Names of Her Majesty's Ships and Commanders in Every Fleet. Being a Pattern and Warning to Future Ages. Never Printed Before. London: Printed for W. Crooke, 1682.
- Monson, William. Sir William Monson's Naval Tracts in Six Books: Containing, 1. A Yearly Account of the English and Spanish Fleets... : the Whole from the Original Manuscript Never Before Published. London: Printed for A. and J. Churchill, 1703.
- Monson, William. The Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson in Six Books. ed. Michael Oppenheim. [London]: Printed for the Navy records society, 1902. Note : This printing is not an exact reproduction, but updates some of the original, Elizabethan English into more modern English.
Thrush, Andrew. "Monson, Sir William (1568?-1643)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.