PAST Records Workshop – High Court of Admiralty

Date / time: 20 June, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

The Postgraduate Archival Skills Training (PAST) programme offers students a unique opportunity to obtain the skills and knowledge needed to undertake academic research using original records at The National Archives.

*Please note that this is a one-day workshop on site at The National Archives on Tuesday 20 June 2023*

The English High Court of Admiralty (HCA) handled legal cases arising from work, trade, crime and warfare at sea. Its diverse but little-used records provide insights into coastal and overseas exchange, piracy, the slave trade and European colonialism between c.1535 and c.1860. It is one of the most significant collections in the world for these subject areas, but researchers have only just begun to explore it in detail.

This High Court of Admiralty Records Workshop will provide you with the essential skills to identify and access original source material amongst this difficult to navigate collection. During each session you will receive tuition and guidance on a range of archival research skills from our records specialists who work with HCA records, and you will also undertake practical exercises involving hands-on document work.

The day will begin with an overview of the Court’s expanding role from the passage of the 1535 Offences at Sea Act, through to the end of the Crimean War in 1856. Three sessions that follow will then cover how to locate court papers, letters and artefacts in the three main jurisdictions of HCA: Prize (adjudication of wartime captures), Oyer and Terminar (criminal) and Instance (civil disputes). A final session will cover miscellanea and the earliest HCA materials, dating from when the jurisdictions were less clearly separate.

By the end of the workshop you will have increased confidence in your ability to find and access previously challenging documents relating to overseas exchange, piracy and life at sea, and to read and understand their contents. This event is aimed at current taught postgraduate and PhD students, although other researchers are welcome to attend. This is a level three workshop within the PAST programme, and will be investigating complex and demanding archival collections, but you will be supported by expert staff throughout. There are no pre-requisites for attendance.

For more information about the PAST programme please see The National Archives’ website or email

You can join the conversation and learn more about our other PAST workshops by following #TNAPAST

Image: Wiki Commons