James Monro was born c. 1838 in Edinburgh, the son of a solicitor. He received his early education at Edinburgh High School, before matriculating to the University of Edinburgh. He also studied at the University of Berlin
. At the age of 19 he joined the legal branch of the Indian Civil Service, where he would remain until 1884. During his time there he held several positions, including Assistant Magistrate, District Judge, and Inspector-General of the Police for the Bombay Presidency. In 1884 he returned to England
and was appointed Assistant Commissioner (Crime) for Scotland Yard
. He was also appointed Director of Criminal Investigation, leading the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Unlike his predecessor, he was immediately answerable to the Commissioner.
During his early years in office he was mostly involved in operations against the Fenians, who had recently restarted their campaigns in England. To this end he worked with Robert Anderson
, with whom he formed a close bond. In 1887 the pair succeeded in foiling a bomb plot centred around Queen Victoria's
Golden Jubilee, which was their most notable victory over the Fenians. During this time Monro also worked in secret spying operations, eventually getting control of the Special Branch, over the head of the Home Office, and turning it into the United Kingdom's central covert security office.
In 1886 Charles Warren
was appointed Commissioner, despite the favourite for the position being Monro. The two men had never got on, and Warren did not appreciate the need for detective skills. Also in 1888 Warren refused to accept Monro's friend Melville Macnaghten
as Chief Constable (CID), which caused Monro to resign from his position in September. He was replaced with Robert Anderson. Nonetheless, he was left in charge of the Special Branch, and Home Secretary Henry Matthews gave him the title Head of Detectives, as well as an office in the Home Office. During the height of the Jack the Ripper
killings, CID officers and especially Anderson, continued to consult with Monro behind Warren's back, a move which was completely supported by Matthews.
In November of 1888 Warren, who had been worn down by public criticism and the disdain of his senior officers, resigned from his post. Monro was appointed in his stead, and was immensely popular with the officers of the force, though he was the shortest serving of all Commissioners, with a term of only 18 months. Almost as soon as he was appointed Commissioner he clashed with the Home Office over the number of officers, the quality of the uniforms worn by officers and their salaries. When his Assistant Commissioner died suddenly he supported promotions from below, while the Home Office hoped to put one of their own men in the position. Monro resigned on June 12th, 1890 after bills to increase salary and pension were deemed by him to be too little. His resignation took effect on June 21st, 1890, four days after a bill was passed that met all of his demands. He left the Yard as a hero both among officers and among the press. After his resignation he returned to India
, where he founded the Ranaghat Christian Medical Mission. He ran the mission until 1903, when he retired back to England.
Personal Life, Death
In 1863 he married Aberdeen-born Ruth Littlejohn. In June of 1888 he was appointed Companion of the Bath. He died on January 28, 1920 at the age of 81