Board of Longitude

The archives of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, held in Cambridge University Library, include the complete run of the papers of the Board of Longitude through the eighteenth century until its abolition in 1828. These papers throw a vivid light on the role of the British state in encouraging invention and discovery, on the energetic culture of technical ingenuity in the long eighteenth century, and on many aspects of exploration and maritime travel in the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic.

In July 1714, an act of parliament established a large prize for discovery of longitude, the determination of position at sea east or west from a fixed meridian line.

The papers of the Board of Longitude were systematically gathered and catalogued at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and passed to the University Library Cambridge when the Observatory’s papers were transferred there in 1990.