The Prize Papers Collection
The Prize Papers Collection represents a unique collection of documents that illustrate daily lives around the globe in the time of the European expansion, colonialism, and resistance. The practice of "prize-taking," that is, the capturing of ships on the high seas belonging to hostile powers, was a legally sanctioned practice among European states, particularly between the 17th and 19th centuries. The documents in this collection were impounded by the High Court of Admiralty of the English and later British Royal Navy between 1652 and 1817, and they are now held by The National Archives of the UK. During this period confiscated documents that were deemed part of a legal capture were stored in the Admiralty’s archives, along with all juridical documents emerging from the respective captures. The resulting collection includes documents from more than 35,000 captured ships, held in around 4088 boxes and 71 printed volumes. The Prize Papers Collection includes at least 160,000 undelivered letters intercepted on their way across the seas, many of which remain unopened to this day. These are accompanied by books and papers on all manner of legal, commercial, maritime, colonial and administrative matters, often embellished with notes and doodles. Documents in at least 19 different languages have been identified so far, and more languages are likely to be discovered as the project progresses. Alongside this written material is a variety of small miscellaneous artifacts, including jewelry, textiles, playing cards and keys. To date over 2,500 digitized documents are now available through the collection's website and the quantity of accessible materials will continue to grow as the project moves forward. This is a remarkable treasury of historical materials and will be of interest to anyone studying world history in the era covered.