18th Century Spanish Prize Papers Now Online


View of various small images of documents

The National Archives in collaboration with Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg has launched online thousands of papers from captured Spanish ships which were all taken by the British between 1739 – 1748.

The historic practice of capturing enemy ships during wartime has resulted in a unique collection at The National Archives. Between 1652 and 1815, British privateers and naval vessels captured roughly 35,000 ships, from which they seized hundreds of thousands of papers that survive to this day as the Prize Papers – a “prize” being a captured ship.

Prof. Dr. Dagmar Freist, director, prize papers project Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg / Germany said:

‘I am very happy that our collaborative Prize Papers Project between Oldenburg University in Germany, the German Historical Institute in London, and The National Archives UK is now launching its third case study, this time focusing on Spanish Ships. With these case studies we put online and contextualize amazing records which provide a so far unknown everyday live perspective on colonialism and globalization. The rich documents from Spanish ships displayed here are just the first to be presented with many more to follow as the project proceeds.’

Dr Amanda Bevan, Head of Legal Records at The National Archives said :

‘The papers taken from these 130 captured Spanish ships represent a small fraction of the Spanish prize papers still awaiting discovery at the National Archives. As we now work through the papers of the American Revolutionary War, we know we will find many more – ranging from many letters from Peru or Cuba to smaller numbers of papers on ships trading in Europe. It is a really exciting project which will have a profound impact on how Spanish people at home or overseas in the 18th century can be seen and heard anew.’

These records are all unknown to researchers and provide insights into everyday life in Spain as well as detailing the political and military conflicts of the period.

To find out more about the project please visit the Prize Papers Portal: https://portal.prizepapers.de

For more information about the Spanish papers, please visit htps://www.prizepapers.de/case-studies/case-study-spanish-ships