A beautiful image of Mt. Tungurahua, Ecuador, erupting on the 23rd April 1773 is from a report on the event submitted to the Spanish Crown by officials in the colony. The image, and the written evidence that accompanies it, is held in the Archivo General de Indias (AGI), Seville, Spain. Both documents capture valuable scientific information on the history of a currently active volcano (most recent eruption 26th April 2011), associated hazards and impacts (e.g. the damming of the river), and the response of the local communities. It is rare to have this level of detail for a volcanic eruption, including the precise timing and sequence of events, prior to modern instrumental monitoring. The AGI archive contains an estimated 8km of paperwork (80 million folders) from the global network of Spanish colonies and covering the period 1492-1898. There are further archives in Valladolid and Madrid, and records from the Portuguese colonies are held in Lisbon. The potential for recovering scientifically and socially valuable records on natural hazard events is obvious. This project brings together expertise from the School of Earth Sciences and the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies in a targeted strategy that will demonstrate the potential of this relatively untapped resource. The ultimate goal is to evaluate important questions about climate, volcanoes and earthquakes that are currently difficult to evaluate from the short time series of modern observations.