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Malaysian studies

We have exceptionally rich resources for the study of Malaysia. 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. As well as material in English and European languages, we hold and continue to collect, a substantial amount of material in the languages of Malaysia, including Malay, Chinese, Tamil and Arabic, with smaller collections in Iban, Dusun and other indigenous languages.

Researching Malaysia at the British Library

Printed books

The British Library holds both printed books relating to Malaysian studies, and books published in Malaysia. Due to the provisions of the 1886 Straits Settlements Registration of Books Ordinance (and subsequent acts relating to Johor and the Federated Malay States) under which one copy of each book registered was sent to the British Museum, the British Library today holds an exceptionally rich collection of early printed books and periodicals from Malaysia, in all languages. 

Almost all books and serials in English and European languages published in or relating to Malaysia can be found through Explore the British Library, as can titles in Malay and Tamil acquired after 1982.  All titles in Chinese, and works in Malay, Arabic and Tamil acquired before 1982, are found on printed, card or electronic catalogues available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room

For details of collections and catalogues see the following language pages:

Periodicals and newspapers

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, Chinese, Tamil and Arabic can be accessed at the Library’s St Pancras site. Many newspapers acquired since 1980 are included in the Explore the British Library. Older newspapers are included in printed catalogues for each language, under the heading ‘Periodical Publications’. There is a list of Asian language newspapers available from the Reference Enquiries Desk in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Asian language newspapers held by the British Library, as well as those held by other UK research libraries, are also listed in the Newspapers database of Mapping Asia. The Mapping Asia website is currently being moved to a new server, but a link will be available here as soon as it becomes available again. 

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 British Library’s manuscript collections in European languages relating to Malaysia include the writings of politicians, diplomats, academics, travellers, missionaries, artists and journalists. Most of the Library’s manuscripts in European languages are included in the Manuscripts catalogue. There are also materials relevant to Malaysia in the India Office Private Papers, particularly relating to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles:

Bastin, John.  Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.  With an account of the Raffles-Minto manuscript collection presented to the India Office Library on 17 July 1969 by the Malaysia-Singapore Commercial Association.  (Liverpool: Ocean Steam Ship Company, 1969).

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 of the Malay manuscript collections and catalogues, see the Malay language collections page.

The Library also holds a few Arabic manuscripts from Malaysia, including a finely illuminated 19th century Qur’an from the east coast of the peninsula (Or.15227).

Archival resources

There are abundant archival resources on Malaysia – especially relating to Penang and Melaka – 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. The India Office Records hold the archives of the Straits Settlements up to 1867; after this date official British records relating to Malaysia are held at the National Archives. The India Office Records also holds the Melaka Records (IOR: R/9), relating to the Dutch and British administrations of Melaka.

Apart from the Library’s own catalogues, published guides relevant to Malaysia include:

Baxter, Ian.  Dutch records from Malacca in the India Office Records.  Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1983, 56 (2):105-133.

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, with many items relating to Malaysia, especially of topographical and natural history subjects.

Apart from the Library’s online catalogue of prints and drawings, published guides relevant to images of Malaysia include:

Bastin, John & Pauline Rohatgi, Prints of Southeast Asia in the India Office Library: the East India Company in Malaysia and Indonesia 1786-1824.  (London: H.M.S.O., 1979.)

Archer, Mildred & John Bastin,  The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library London.  (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1978 [i.e.1979])

Noltie, H.J. Raffles’ ark redrawn: natural history drawings from the collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.  (London: British Library, 2009)

Recorded sound and audio-visual resources

The British Library Sound Archive holds one of the world’s largest collections of world and traditional music, including many recordings from Malaysia. There are other relevant resources in the oral history, drama and literature collections, as well as a range of field recordings of wildlife from Malaysia, including from the Taman Negara, Fraser’s Hill, Batang Ai in Sarawak and the Danum Valley in Sabah.

These resources may be located through the Sound Archive catalogue.

Electronic resources

A number of key electronic resources for the study of Malaysia 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 Malaysian studies.

Other resources

In addition to these resources, the Library offers access to 


Key external websites include the Malay Concordance Project and a digital library of 600 books on Aceh from the Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden, Netherlands.


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

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

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7661
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641