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Brunei studies

We have a wide range of resources for the study of Brunei, both in English and European languages and in Malay. Relevant material can be found throughout the collections, in the form of printed books and serials, newspapers, manuscripts, archival resources, photographs, prints and drawings, sound recordings and moving images, electronic resources, theses and maps. 

Researching Brunei at the British Library


Printed books

The Library holds and continues to collect selectively both printed books relating to Brunei studies, and books published in Brunei. Almost all books and serials in English and European languages can be found through Explore the British Library, as can titles in Malay acquired after 1982. Works in Malay acquired before 1982 are found in card catalogues available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room

Newspapers and periodicals

European language newspapers are included in the Explore the British Library. They can be searched directly, or by selecting the ‘Newspapers’ subset to narrow the search. See the British Library Newspapers pages for details of how to access the Newspaper Collections.

Newspapers and periodicals in Malay can be accessed at the Library’s St Pancras site. Many newspapers acquired since 1980 are included in Explore the British Library. Older newspapers are included in printed catalogues for each language, under the heading ‘Periodical publications’. A list of Asian language newspapers is available from the Reference Enquiries Desk in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

Among the Brunei periodicals held by the Library are Salam, Brunei Museum Journal (14634.p.1) and Pusaka (ZOR.1988.a.72), the journal of the Pusat Sejarah Brunei. Published guides to the periodicals collections include:

Lim, Patricia Pui Huen. Singapore, Malaysian and Brunei newspapers: an international union list.  (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1992.)


The Library’s manuscript collections in European languages include the writings of politicians, diplomats, academics, travellers, missionaries, artists and journalists, including the accounts of travellers to Borneo. Most of the Library’s manuscripts in European languages are included in the Manuscripts catalogue. There are also some materials relevant to Brunei in the India Office Private Papers.

Manuscripts in Malay are not yet included in the Explore the British Library. They are listed in published catalogues and unpublished handlists, by language. For details see the Malay language collections page.

Malay manuscripts relating to Brunei in the Library include a 17th century letter from the Raja Bendahara (Rot. Harl. 43.A.6); diplomatic correspondence between Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam of Brunei and Singapore from the 1820s in the Farquhar Letterbook (Add.12398); three loyal addresses from Brunei presented to Sir Frederick James in 1919 (Or.13143); a letter from DYTM Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien to Dato’ Norman Bradbury, 1983 (Or.15036); and Syair Baginda, a narrative poem relating a visit to Labuan by Sultan Abdul Mumin (Or.14549).

Published guides to Malay manuscripts from Brunei in the Library include:

Gallop, Annabel Teh.  Malay  sources for the history of Brunei Darussalam in British collections.  Masa silam sarana masa depan: kumpulan kertas kerja Seminar Sejarah Brunei II  (Bandar Seri Begawan: Jabatan Pusat Sejarah, 1999), pp.235-244.

Gallop, Annabel Teh.  Malay sources for the history of the sultanate of Brunei in the early nineteenth century: some letters from the reign of Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam.  From Buckfast to Borneo: essays presented to Father Robert Nicholl on the 85th anniversary of his birth, 27 March 1995, eds. Victor T. King & A.V.M.Horton  (Hull: University of Hull, 2005), pp.207-35.

Archival resources

There are some archival resources relating to Brunei and Borneo in the India Office Records, which are the documentary archives of the administration in London of the East India Company and the pre-1947 government of India. However, the British Library does not hold official British government records relating to Sarawak and Sabah (British North Borneo) in the 19th century. These are found in the National Archives.

Apart from the Library’s India Office Records' own catalogues, published guides relevant to Brunei include:

Lawrence, David.  India Office Records. The Board’s collections: sources for the Malay world, 1836-58.  Indonesia and the Malay World, 1997, No.72: 144-175.

Visual materials

The Library has a rich collection of prints, drawings and photographs which includes some images from Borneo. The catalogue of visual materials is available online.

Recorded sound and audio-visual resources

The British Library Sound Archive holds one of the world’s largest collections of world and traditional music. There are other relevant resources in the oral history, drama and literature collections, as well as field recordings of wildlife from Brunei, including, for example, the song of the Red-naped Trogon Harpactus kasumba recorded in Bangar, Temburong, in 1980. These resources may be located through the Sound Archive catalogue.

Electronic resources

A number of key electronic resources for the study of Brunei are also available at the British Library. For licensing reasons, most of these may be accessed only from the Library’s reading rooms. The Library also subscribes to a growing number of electronic journals relevant to Brunei and Southeast Asian studies. 

Other resources

In addition to these resources the Library offers access to 


Asian and African Studies enquiries
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7873
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641

E-mail: Ask the Asian and African Studies Reference Team