The Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson
Monson was a late-Elizabethan seaman and naval commander, retired under a cloud in 1616, who occupied his retirement in composing a number of works on naval affairs. A large collection of narratives, notes and memoranda, mostly concerning English naval affairs under James I and Charles I.
Michael Oppenheim was born in 1853 and brought up in London. He qualified as a surgeon and served as such in merchant ships for a number of years, an experience that seems to have engendered his interest in maritime and naval history. Between 1891 and 1894 he wrote a series of articles for The English Historical Review which were subsequently consolidated into his ground breaking book on The History of the Administration of the Royal Navy…From 1509 to 1660, published in 1896. In the same year, he edited a volume on the navy under Henry VIII for the Navy Records Society, later editing the five volume of Monson Tracts. He also wrote substantial chapters on maritime history for eight volumes of the Victoria County Histories. Despite having had no formal training as a historian, Oppenheim became a remarkably shrewd analyst and critic of historical sources. However, criticism of his work, and his being denied access to Pepys’ papers at Magdalene College, Cambridge, caused him to abandon plans for a continuation of the history of administration to 1714, and in 1914 he abandoned writing altogether. He died in Italy in 1927.