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Singapore studies

We have exceptionally rich resources for the study of Singapore. 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. In addition to material in English and European languages, the Library holds a substantial amount of material in the languages used in Singapore, including Malay, Chinese, Tamil and Arabic.

Researching Singapore at the British Library

Printed books

The British Library holds and continues to collect selectively both printed books relating to Singapore studies, and books published in Singapore. Due to the provisions of the 1886 Straits Settlements Registration of Books Ordinance, under which one copy of each book registered was sent to the British Museum, the British Library today has probably the single richest collection of early printed books and periodicals from Singapore, in all languages.

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

Published guides and catalogues include:

Byrd, Cecil K. Early printing in the Straits Settlements, 1806-1858. ([Singapore,] National Library, 1970.)

Proudfoot, I. Early Malay printed books : a provisional account of materials published in the Singapore-Malaysia area up to 1920, noting holdings in major public collections.  ([Kuala Lumpur] : Academy of Malay Studies and the Library, University of Malaya, 1993.)

Gallop, Annabel Teh.  ‘Early Malay printing: an introduction to the British Library collection’.  Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1990, 63 (1), pp.85-124.

Periodicals and newspapers

European language newspapers are included in 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 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. 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.)

Roff, William Robert. Bibliography of Malay and Arabic periodicals published in the Straits Settlements and Peninsular Malay States, 1876-1941. With an annotated union list of holdings in Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom. (London: Oxford University Press, 1972.)


The Library’s manuscript collections in European languages relating to Singapore 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 Singapore in the India Office Private Papers, particularly relating to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

Manuscripts in Asian languages 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 manuscript collections and catalogues, see the relevant language pages.

The Malay manuscript collections include some volumes and documents from Singapore. Highlights include early diplomatic correspondence from Singapore from the 1820s recorded in the Farquhar Letterbook (Add.12398), and an illuminated letter from Temenggung Daing Ibrahim of Johor to Emperor Napoleon III of France, written in Singapore in 1857 (Or.16126).

Archival resources

There are abundant archival resources on Singapore 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 Singapore are held at the National Archives.

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

David Lawrence.  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 British Library has a rich collection of prints, drawings and photographs, including the earliest known drawing of Singapore, by Lt. P. Jackson in 1823 (WD 2971).

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

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

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 Southeast Asia.

These resources may be located through the Sound Archive catalogue.

Electronic resources

A number of key electronic resources for the study of Singapore 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 Singapore studies. 

Other resources

In addition to these resources the Library offers access to 

Digital resources

A selection of twenty important items in the British Library relating to Singapore – manuscripts, printed books, newspapers and archival sources – were digitised in collaboration with the National Library of Singapore, and full text images can be found on the Singapore Pages website of the National Library Board of Singapore.


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