Online Primary Sources: British Naval Treaties

What I present here is not totally comprehensive, but these tools do give access to the full-text of multiple naval treaties extending back centuries; one is easy to navigate, the other is rougher sailing. (Puns intended)

The long-running British and Foreign States Papers is a veritable treasure trove of information that should be of interest to those devotees of the Age of Sail. Some of the primary sources located therein include treaties, correspondence, speeches, papers, declarations, manifestos, and conferences; the writings are arranged chronologically by state. This listing I am using has an almost complete run from 1812 – 1922. It takes a little effort to tease out what you want, but the time is so worth it. For example, there are several multi-year indexes published that will assist you; here is the index for volumes 1-42, that includes the years 1373 – 1853. (Yes, just like the heavily-used Naval Chronicle, prior years are included in the coverage; most of the earlier entries are found in volume 1.) There is a chronological listing of all documents that comprises the beginning pages of this tome; by scanning the list, one can pick out the treaties entered into agreement among Great Britain and other parties. For example, I picked out on page 2 of the index the peace/commerce treaty signed between Great Britain and Algeria. The reference was to volume 1, page 354, and I found the full text of the treaty there. It is a little awkward, but it does yield results. Another way of discovering pertinent sources is to search within the index volume by utilizing the “search in this text” box located on the upper right of the page. Using the text search results in over 400 hits for the word “peace” and numerous ones for “commerce” or “naval”.

A more direct approach is found through British Treaties Online that offers treaties enacted between 1835 and the present. It must be noted that this site does NOT present the full text of all the treaties but again, enough are present to satisfy most researchers. And if the treaty is not here, you are directed to a paper source that does have it. There are multiple access points to allow for very specific searching; using the term “naval” elicited over 50 hits, the word “maritime” garnered 111.

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