George Monck's

Observations upon
Military & Political Affairs:

The foremost English handbook of

Generalship and Statecraft

Detail from the frontispiece of Monck's own book. Click to see the full engraved portrait.

General George Monck

General on Land and Sea
under the Protectorate and the Parliament.

Architect of the Restoration of England's Parliament and Crown.

Captain General of all his Majesty's Forces
under King Charles II.

Who was George Monck? Click HERE to read more about him.

George Monck's Book

Written 1644-46. Published 1671. New edition 2006.

Click to read the original Table of Contents.
Click to read the original Table of Contents.

Annotated new edition of Monck's handbook for young officers.
  New appendices include extracts from Monck's own orders and
reports, showing how he put his principles into practice:

      Editor of the new edition: Bernard Levine, Eugene, Oregon

How to order the NEW edition

A few excerpts from George Monck's
Observations upon
Military & Political Affairs

Baggage and artillery trains at Naseby, 1645.
Guarding the baggage train, parliamentary army 1645

Return to top of excerpts

Click to read the original Table of Contents
Click to read the original Table of Contents

How to order the NEW edition

Who was George Monck?

1. Monck as general
                    [2. Monck as writer]

    George Monck was the English general who restored Britain's parliament in the spring of 1660, bringing to a close nearly two decades of bitter civil war and religious strife. Then, under Monck's leadership, parliament enacted the restoration of the British monarchy, which had been suspended since the execution of King Charles I eleven years earlier. Yet Monck restored both parliament and crown, along with all the traditional forms of English government, without precipitating another civil war, indeed without any further bloodshed at all.

    General Monck had conquered Scotland a decade earlier, and had been its military governor under the Commonwealth and the Protectorate since 1651.

[Click here to read the official day-by-day account of Monck's 1651 campaign in Scotland.]

    In 1653 he had taken time out to command the English Navy in the First Anglo-Dutch War. Monck was a forceful advocate of the war, partly for personal payback, but mainly for pragmatic politics. He said at the time, "What matters this or that reason? What we want is more of the trade which the Dutch now have."
    In order to outmaneuver the more agile Dutch fleet, Monck introduced signal flags and line-of-battle tactics adapted from land warfare, techniques that were to remain standard in all navies well into the 20th century. The new edition of Monck's Observations includes the full text of Monck's original fighting instructions, dated March 29, 1653.

Battle of the Gabbard, June 2, 1653.
Battle of the Gabbard, June 2, 1653.
The first use of line-ahead tactics,
by the English fleet under Monck's command.
Painting by Heerman Witmont.

Cruisers in line-of-battle, 1917.
Royal Navy cruisers in 1917, still using
Monck's line-ahead tactics of 1653.
Painting by Kenneth Denton Shoesmith.

    After his victories at sea, Monck returned to Scotland in the spring of 1654, where he defeated Middleton's rebellion using a systematic counter-guerrilla strategy. There followed a period of peace and prosperity unprecedented in Scotland's history. The new edition includes a detailed account of Monck's second Scottish campaign, gleaned from his own letters, orders, and reports—a campaign offering valuable lessons to any army fighting insurgencies today.

    In June 1658 Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell died, his heir abdicated, and Britain stumbled toward anarchy. Three independent English armies, as well as the English navy, the Rump parliament, the royalists, and a multitude of religious factions were all contending for power, but none had either the resources or the forceful leader necessary to claim the center.

    On January 1, 1660, Monck took action, leading his occupying army out of Scotland, across the River Tweed at Coldstream, and south down the snow-covered road toward London. His army was small, 5,000 men, but well paid, loyal to him, and perfectly disciplined. His stated goal was simple, "I will reduce the military power in obedience to the civil," yet he proceeded to do so by an irresistible display of military power (backed up by an effective intelligence and propaganda network organized by his brother-in-law, Thomas Clarges {click to see some examples}). Monck swore allegiance to the parliament, which placed him in command of all Britain's armed forces, but once he had seized control of the House of Commons he explained that he really had meant a "full and free" parliament, not the factional "Rump" then sitting.

"I do not think my life too precious to hazard in the defense
of the Supreme Authority, the Parliament of England."
                George Monck, to Speaker Lenthal, 13 October 1659

"Monck, who hath now the absolute command and power to do any
thing that he hath a mind to do." Samuel Pepys, Diary, 7 February 1660

"You have told me little of the general till now in the end:
but truly, I think the bringing of his little army entire
out of Scotland up to London, was the greatest stratagem
that is extant in history." Thomas Hobbes, Behemoth, 1668

    The restored parliament promptly voted to restore the king. Upon the return of Charles II from exile (May 25, 1660), the king created Monck Duke of Albemarle, and renewed the general's parliamentary appointment to command all of Britain's sea and land forces. The standing New Model army was disbanded in 1661 except for Monck's own regiments, which became (and remain) the Coldstream Guards.

"They were certainly the bravest, the best disciplined, and
the soberest army that had been known in these latter ages:
every soldier was able to do the functions of an officer."
                Gilbert Burnet, History of My Own Time

Click this cover image to read the 1930 program.
Submission of the Army to the Crown, February 14, 1661
1930 Re-Enactment by Monck's own Regiments, the Coldstream Guards
Click the image to see photos and read the program.

    General Monck fought the Dutch at sea again in the 1660s. He took charge of governing London during both the great plague of 1666, and the great fire of 1667. In 1665 King Charles had named "Our right Trusty, and right entirely Beloved Cousin and Counsellor, George Duke of Albemarle, Master of our Horse," one of the Lords Proprietor of Carolina. Albemarle Sound, North Carolina, was named in Monck's honor.

George Monck in the Coronation procession - April 22, 1661

Medal by Thomas Simon, 1660
Click the medal to read a
detailed illustrated biography
of George Monck, 1608-1670.

2. Monck as writer
                    [1. Monck as general]

    During the First English Civil War Monck had served King Charles I, had been captured by parliamentary forces in 1644, and had then been locked up in the Tower of London until 1646. While imprisoned he wrote a book called Observations on Military and Political Affairs. It was based in part on his long experience (c1629-1636) as an officer in an English regiment in service to the Dutch Republic (culturally, militarily, and technologically the Netherlands was the most advanced country in 17th century Europe), in part on his reading of the classics while he was incarcerated, and in part on lessons he had learned from the unfolding civil war in Britain.  

[Click here to read an eyewitness account of Monck's gallantry in the 1636 Dutch siege of Breda.]

    When Monck was finally released from the Tower, and placed in command of the English parliamentary army in Ireland, he left his manuscript behind with Lord Lisle. Evidently he did no further work on it.

    Soon after Monck died, in 1670, his unedited manuscript was given to a London publisher, who printed it in 1671. I have an original of that first edition, and from it I have prepared a new corrected edition (several of the chapters in the original were out of order, which is evident from the references to the diagrams; also many passages in the chapters on tactics were redundant). The new edition includes all of Monck's original battle diagrams, along with additional military illustrations of the period, and extracts from Monck's own letters and order books demonstrating how he put his principles into practice.

    Monck was not university-educated, having become a soldier at age 16, so his writing style is refreshingly blunt and forthright. In the new edition I have modernized both spelling and punctuation (but not conjugation), and provided detailed explanatory footnotes for obsolete phrases and technical terms. Otherwise the language and ideas are Monck's own, and his forceful prose is readily accessible to the modern reader — especially those accustomed to the cadences of the King James Version of the Bible.

    Monck's book can be regarded as an English counterpart to the Chinese Art of War or the Japanese Book of Five Rings. It distills the wisdom and experience of the most admired military man of 17th century Britain. The military technology of 1646 has long been obsolete (though it still is of lively interest to re-enactors, war-gamers, and historians), but Monck's tactical, strategic, political, and moral advice is as timely today as it was when he wrote it down, more than 350 years ago. See for yourself in the excerpts above.

            Editor of the new edition: Bernard Levine, Eugene, Oregon

Click to read the original Table of Contents
Click to read the original Table of Contents

How to order the NEW edition

Any questions? Click HERE to email.

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