Prize Papers research portal launched
Court records revealing the details of 1,500 ships captured during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars are now searchable online for the first time.
Uploaded as part of our Prize Papers project, the digital copies of 55 case books relating to ships seized by the British between 1793 and 1815 will provide insight into the work of the High Court of Admiralty in London in deciding whether the captured vessel was neutral or belonged to the enemy.
The new open access portal will allow researchers to search by the name of a ship, ship’s master, geographic area or date, and will include 3.5 million digital pages once the 20-year project has been completed.
Since 2018, teams at The National Archives and the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, in Germany, have been working to catalogue the contents of 4,088 boxes, including 160,000 undelivered letters, logbooks, ships papers and bills, poems, drawings, fabrics and playing cards, confiscated from 35,000 ships during 14 wars between 1652 and 1817.
Many of these artefacts have not only managed to stand the test of time over the course of the past centuries, but have also managed to remain virtually untouched.
Dr Amanda Bevan, Head of Legal Records at The National Archives recently said:
“In the days when wooden ships could be taken by threat of force, without necessarily sinking, the capture of enemy or neutral ships and their cargoes as “prize” was a standard part of warfare, to disrupt enemy trade; and neutral ships were captured, if they were suspected of carrying enemy goods.
“During the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812, the British alone captured more than 25,000 ships across the world. The High Court of Admiralty in London or the many British Vice-Admiralty courts in the Caribbean, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean judged the legality of the captures.
“The case books uploaded today serve as an excellent point of entry into the historical period, as well as the global systematic capturing of merchant ships.”
Prof Dr Dagmar Freist, director of the Prize Papers project, recently said:
“Further papers will be added to the online portal later this year, starting with the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748).”
The Prize Papers project is part of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, working with the German Historical Institute London, and the VZG. As of 2018, the project has been part of the Academies Programme of the German Union of the Academies of Sciences and Humanities.
Latest News from
300,000 farm records going online, thanks to grant from Lund Trust19/02/2024 11:15:00
The National Archives is delighted to announce that we will digitise the National Farm Survey (MAF 32 and MAF 73) in full, thanks to a generous grant of £2.13 million from Lund Trust.
Great Escapes exhibition launched14/02/2024 13:10:00
We opened our new exhibition Great Escapes: Remarkable Second World War Captives with a launch event and positive coverage in the media.
Allocating collections accepted in lieu of tax14/02/2024 10:05:00
Any library, record office or institution in the United Kingdom interested in acquiring either of these collections should contact Liz Hart, Collections and Manorial Records Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the application process.
Join The National Archives Board17/01/2024 14:25:00
Are you interested in helping to lead and shape the work of The National Archives? We are looking to appoint two non-executive members to our Board.
Latest Cabinet Office files released29/12/2023 12:05:00
Today we have released Cabinet Office files from 20 years ago covering a range of subjects that crossed the desk of Tony Blair as prime minister.
18th Century Spanish Prize Papers Now Online28/11/2023 09:15:00
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.
Newly Accredited Archive Services22/11/2023 14:20:00
Following a recent Archive Service Accreditation Panel, we are pleased to announce that the following archive services have been awarded accreditation for the first time.
Great Escapes: Remarkable Second World War Captives16/11/2023 09:15:00
Yesterday we announced our upcoming exhibition, Great Escapes: Remarkable Second World War Captives, opening in February 2024.