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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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Beth May (2 months ago)
A lovely spacious archive focusing on Spanish colonialism in Latin America. The architecture is impressive, however the inside is quite bare and a lot more could be done to show off more of the rich history that the archives hold. I’d say if you’re in the area it’s worth popping in, but I wouldn’t travel out of your way to visit unless you have particular interest in the field.
Michael Harrison (2 months ago)
Beautiful building. Disappointing content. At the time we visited there was an exhibition with some photos of bullfights and another exhibition about scientific discoveries. Nothing really about the colonization of Latin America, which I have a great interest in and is what I came for. Maybe we were unlucky with the timing, as it seems from other reviews that there have been more interesting and relevant exhibitions recently.
Gaspar de Elías (3 months ago)
The building is in very good shape. I don't understand why there's no documents showing all the conflicts arises from the discovery of America. The building is full of place holders and empty. At least they could show printed fragments of such documents. I remember coming here 7 years ago and the visit was truly interesting. Don't come here is wasting your time now.
Piccola Reporter (8 months 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 (12 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…
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