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The data collected by the Prize Papers Team aims to gather important information on the entire business of prize taking, as well as on the documents transported on the ships which were brought up and which originate from all around the (then known) world, produced by people across the social stratum for a multiplicity of purposes.

Therefore, information concentrates on

  • The ships and their journeys
  • The captures with all ships involved
  • The court processes, and
  • The documents on the level of each document

Knowing which data is collected and by which standards will help users to customize and narrow down search results.


Ships in the prize papers database are identified by their names, eventually providing spelling variations, alternative names (for example when the German ship „Die Drei Gebrüder“ is referred to as „The Three Brothers“ during the court process), or former names (where ships were renamed after being sold or captured).

Where possible, the type of ship is identified. These types of ships fall into the two categories of types by function - for example a war ship or a merchant ship - and types by building construction as with a sloop or bark.

In rare cases, information on home ports, and ownership of the ships can be provided.

As one essential feature, the voyages of the ships are recorded - for captured as well as capturing ships - with the capture being the event and place where capturing ships intercepted with captured ships.

To allow the visualization of the routes of the ships in future versions of the portal, a ship‘s voyage is recorded leg by leg, each leg starting at the point of arrival of the previous leg. These parts of a voyage are called „journeys“.

On journeys, dates and places of departure and arrival, names of masters or commanders, crew members, the ruling authorities (as precursors to nationalities) and flags under which the ships sailed, as well as lading transported is potentially recorded. Where data on exact dates or places is not (yet) available, it is approximated. The data is constantly enhanced by the cataloguing work.

There are 5 types of journeys recorded:

  • Journey interrupted by capture
  • Capture journey
  • Forced journey
  • Forced journey interrupted by capture
  • Journey

A ship that was to be captured would leave a port of departure with an intended destination. On the way, it would be interrupted by a capturing vessel on its capture journey. This part of the voyage is referred to as “journey interrupted by capture”. After capture, the captured ship was forced to sail to a given port – this part of the journey is referred to as “forced journey”.

Occasionally a ship was taken again on its “forced journey”. These journeys – from one point and time of capture to the next – are referred to as “forced journey interrupted by capture”.


Journeys which were not directly related to a capture, yet known to the cataloguing team, are recorded additionally as “journey”.

While the general collection holds various logbooks of ships collected in HCA 30 and 32 that allow to recreate the voyage of a ship with its separate journeys, for HCA 45 these logbooks are missing, leading to a gap in documentation.

Therefore, missing dates and places are entered in cataloguing as follows:


Journey interrupted by capture and Capture journey:

Generaly the date of capture is known. It is the end date of that part of a ship’s journey.  The date of the ship’s departure is not known in most cases of HCA 45. It is therefore either set to the year of capture, or assumed based on the examination of documents.

Forced journey:

The start date of this journey equals the date of the capture. The date of arrival at any port of destination is not known in most cases of HCA 45. It is therefore either set to the end of the year of capture, or assumed based on the examination of documents.

Forced journey interrupted by capture:

In most cases both dates of capture are known. However, places are uncertain, and may refer only to the wider oceanic region. 


For journeys not directly linking to a capture, start and end dates are not known in most cases of HCA 45. They are therefore set to year (and month) as assumed based on the examination of documents.

Places (of capture):

The exact place of a capture is rarely known. In many cases the documents provide a general (oceanic) region, where a ship was captured. For cases without any indication, the region is deduced from the route a ship was taking.


Court Process

For the current part of the collection, the information provided rely on the court trials of appeals. For these trials, the date of their beginning are not nesseaxirly known. To illustrate the time frame between a capture and the end of a trial, it’s decision, the date of capture is provided as starting point, while a decision marks its end date.

Further data on court processes comprises the verdict as categorized systematically. Users are able to filter appeal cases according to decisions in favor or against the capturing party, with ship and/ or cargo to be released or further proof required.

Finally, all court processes are linked to the capture they are a consequence of - and of course - their documentation, that is, the digitized record of HCA 45. in consequence, users can find all records of cases referring to the same capture, read them online or download images as pdf.



Future developments

Future developments concern the addition of further collections with a wider variety of documents: in the HCA 30 and 32 modules to be presented online, as many as 85 different document types will be available, presented by places of origin and actors involved in their production and use.

Further, it will be possible to use actors – and institutions – as filters or to look for them in a structured approach.

Additionally, future versions of the portal will allow to access the structured data collected by the Prize Papers Portal for subsequent use of the data.