Welcome to the Prize Papers Portal, which is going to be the home to a vast collection of documents and artefacts taken from ships, along with related legal papers, all dating from 1655–1817. 

This unique online archive will span thousands of items that were created across the early modern world and written in dozens of languages. While, step by step, available here, in open access, the physical materials are preserved in the records of the English High Court of Admiralty at The National Archives, Kew. You can explore this collection by using one of the browse functions, below or by performing a search using keywords. 

In February 2022, HCA 45 – a series of bound volumes of printed appeals presented to the Lords Commissioners of Prize Appeals by litigants – was published. Volumes from 1793 to 1817 are available to users, allowing in-depth exploration of maritime trade, communication, and warfare across the globe.

Case Studies

Over the course of 2022 and 2023 the Prize Papers Project will publish representative case studies of documents found on board ships seized by the British during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1747). We will showcase a selection of exemplary records along with the corresponding court records. The purpose of these case studies is to introduce our visitors to the richness, character and diversity of the Prize Papers collection. All these papers are held in the series HCA 30 and HCA 32 at The National Archives, UK and the documents will be made available online for the first time as digital images with metadata on our open access data portal. Following on from the first case study on French Prizes, this second case study covers the stories of Neutral Ships captured by the British on suspicion of cooperating with the enemy. Our homepage provides the historical background to the fascinating time capsules of records taken from these ships, which are in many languages and originate from locations across the Atlantic seaboard.