The General Archive of the Indies was founded in the 1785 by order of King Charles III of Spain for the purpose of gathering all documents referring to the Indies in a single place. Until then, they had been scattered in Simancas, Cádiz and Seville. The promoter of the project was José de Gálvez, Secretary of the Indies, and it was executed by the academic and historian Juan Bautista Muñoz, senior cosmographer of the Indies. The splendid building, the Casa Lonja in Seville, which was built under the reign of King Philip II on plans by the architect Juan de Herrera, has been the site of the Archive through to this day.
Since 1785, and in various remittances, resources were included from the main institutions for the Indies (The Council of the Indies, The Contracting House, consulates, Secretaries of State and of Office), until the Archive became the main document repository for the study of the Spanish Administration in the New World, or, as has been repeated to the point of becoming a cliché, making the General Archive of the Indies the "Mecca of Americanism".
Today the General Archive of the Indies conserves over forty-three thousand dossiers, held on eight linear kilometres of shelving, with some eighty million pages of original documents which allow in-depth study on a daily basis of over three centuries of history of an entire continent, from Tierra de Fuego to the south of the United States, in addition to the Spanish Far East and the Philippines. Their political history, their social history, their economic history and that of their mindsets, the history of their Church and the history of their art ... The most varied topics occupy the interest of the thousands of researchers who pass through the Archive. From the discovery, exploration and conquest of the New World through to its independence; from the political institutions of the Indies to the history of the pre-Columbian peoples; from commercial trade to maritime traffic problems; from the missionary expansion through to aspects of the Inquisition. So many topics in which the General Archive of the Indies has contributed to over time to obtain the most complete and documented historical view of the Spanish Administration of the New World.