gahetNA in the National Archives

All At Sea: The Prize Papers as a Source for a Global Microhistory

The Hague

During the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, the navies of maritime powers and privately owned fighting ships competed in the race for the spoils of war. Ships that became prizes often carried, besides passengers and cargo, mail that was to be delivered at the ship's destination. All ships' papers, including this private mail, were seized and made part of the dossier kept by the British High Court of Admiralty. Intercepted mail and legal documents of the British High Court of Admiralty were kept in the court's archives stores. There they were forgotten for many years. They finally ended up as the 'Prize Papers', part of the High Court of Admiralty archives as record series HCA 30 and 32 in The National Archives. 

Rediscovery of the letters

After the rediscovery of the value of these letters by Dutch researchers in the 1980s, the Prize Papers have given new perspectives on the early modern global world. The European Prize Papers Network is an informal network of researchers who work on the Prize Papers, and it has organised this conference.This international conference aims to bring together scholars who have worked on the Prize Papers (or related materials) to discuss their research and to think about ways of using the source material for future research. This is one of several steps towards establishing a wider European research network on the Prize Papers. 


The conference is organized around the following themes:

  • politics and economy 
  • seafaring 
  • language and literacy 
  • family, friends and private lives 
  • colonial cross-overs and confrontations 
  • practices, artefacts, spaces and body

Registration starts at 11.00 on Monday 6 October, and the conference will finish on Wednesday 8 October at 14.00. See  the attached conference programme for more details. More details, including on how to book, will be available soon on the website of the National Archives. is a website of the National Archives of The Netherlands in cooperation with the Society for the National Archives and Spaarnestad Photo.
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