Archivo General de Indias

Seville, Spain

The Archivo General de Indias ('General Archive of the Indies'), housed in the ancient merchants' exchange of Seville, is the repository of extremely valuable archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. The building itself, an unusually serene and Italianate example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, was designed by Juan de Herrera. This structure and its contents were registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site together with the adjoining Seville Cathedral and the Alcázar of Seville.

The origin of the structure dates to 1572 when Philip II commissioned the building from Juan de Herrera, the architect of the Escorial to house the Consulado de mercaderes of Seville. The building was begun in 1584 and was ready for occupation in 1598, according to an inscription on the north façade. Work on completing the structure proceeded through the 17th century, directed until 1629 by the archbishop Juan de Zumárraga and finished by Pedro Sanchez Falconete.

In 1785, by decree of Charles III the archives of the Council of the Indies were to be housed here, in order to bring together under a single roof all the documentation regarding the overseas empire.

The archives are rich with autograph material from the first of the Conquistadores to the end of the 19th century. Here are Miguel de Cervantes' request for an official post, the Bull of Demarcation Inter caetera of Pope Alexander VI that divided the world between Spain and Portugal, the journal of Christopher Columbus, maps and plans of the colonial American cities, in addition to the ordinary archives that reveal the month-to-month workings of the whole vast colonial machinery, which have been mined by many historians in the last two centuries.

Today the Archivo General de Indias houses some nine kilometers of shelving, in 43,000 volumes and some 80 million pages, which were produced by the colonial administration.

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Founded: 1584
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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Piccola Reporter (31 days ago)
What I'm rating is the current exhibition (I went on December 22, 2021). It's very interesting and it's free, but all the explanation is only in Spanish. The explanation is an important part of the exhibition, so, if you can't understand Spanish, you'll miss most of the content.
DWBonny (5 months ago)
Let’s be clear as to what, precisely, is being celebrated here… The exceedingly well-researched book, ‘Open Veins of Latin America’ might be worth a look, as well…
Bimersha Gautam (6 months ago)
Major letdown. Just a big hall of things. Very badly curated. The only positive is you can escape the heat as the building is very well air-conditioned.
The Anchovy Diaries (12 months ago)
This museum was holding a fantastic exhibition on Magellan in Nov 2019 and was 100% FREE! Definitely worth checking out the building to view the current exhibition.
Zoran Saint-Simon (2 years ago)
Missed opportunity. With so much history, you would think that it would be easy to showcase the importance of the trade with Latin America to Spain, or in the year of our lord 2021, to reflect on the role that Spain played in the subjugation of the natives, or anything in between. Instead, aside from few random Rod Stewart quotes on the walls, there just isn't anything to see: no signs, no explanations, no guided tours, nothing. Even the books on the shelves are cardboard fakes. The only thing this place has going for it is that it's free. But that's about it. And it's a shame, because it could have been so much more.
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