We have exceptionally rich resources for the study of the Middle East and North Africa, past and present.
The Middle East is taken to include Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Jordan, the Palestinian National Authority, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Sudan.
Relevant material can be found throughout the collections, in the form of books and journals, newspapers, manuscripts, archives, photographs, drawings and paintings, sound recordings and moving images, electronic resources, theses, and maps. In addition to material in English and European languages, the Library holds, and continues to collect, a substantial amount of material in the languages of the Middle East and North Africa and about the languages and cultures that have shaped the region for thousands of years.
Researching the Middle East at the British Library
British Library collections
- Printed books and periodicals
- Archival resources
- Recorded sound and audio-visual resources
- Electronic resources
- Other resources
- Collection development
Online and published resources
- Items of Middle East interest on the British Library website
- Images Online
- British Library publications
- Internet links
Almost all books and serials in English and European languages relating to the Middle East can be found through Explore the British Library. Many, but not all, books in the languages of the region can also be accessed through Explore the British Library. For most languages, books acquired since 1980 are included in Explore the British Library, whilst older books are listed in published catalogues available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Details can be found on the pages relevant to the major language groups below.
We hold books and journals in a range of other Middle Eastern languages. Printed catalogues for these are available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room at St Pancras , and most recently-acquired material is included in Explore the British Library. The Library holds books and journals relevant to Egyptology and Assyriology, with near-comprehensive coverage of UK publications and selective coverage of publications from outside the UK. However, more extensive resources and subject expertise on these areas may be found at the British Museum. Contact the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan or the Department of the Middle East at the Museum for further information.
Western-language newspapers published in the Middle East and North Africa are included in Explore the British Library. They can be searched directly, or by selecting the ‘Newspapers’ subset to narrow the search. See the Newspaper Library pages for details of how to access the Newspaper collections.
Newspapers in the languages of the region can be accessed at the Library’s London site at St Pancras. 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’. 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. The Arabic newspapers page gives a summary list of Arabic newspapers held by the British Library.
The Library’s manuscript collections in both European and Asian languages offer an exceptionally rich resource for study of the region. Manuscripts in European languages include the writings of politicians, diplomats, academics, travellers, missionaries, artists and journalists. Most of the Library’s manuscripts in English and other European languages are included in the Manuscripts catalogue . There are also some materials relevant to the Middle East in the India Office Library Private Papers .
Manuscripts in Asian languages are not yet included in Explore the British Library. They are listed in published catalogues, by language. For details of the manuscript collections and catalogues, see the relevant language pages:
The Library holds manuscripts in a range of other Middle Eastern languages. Catalogues for these are available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Although some Western language manuscripts held by the Library may be relevant to Egyptology or Assyriology and related languages and cultures, original texts and subject expertise in these areas may be found at the British Museum. Contact the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan or the Department of the Middle East at the Museum for further information.
There are resources on the Middle East region, particularly the Red Sea, Arabian Peninsula, Gulf States, Iraq and Iran (c1600-1947) in the India Office Records, which are the documentary archives of the administration in London of the pre-1947 government of India. Details of resources most relevant to study of the Middle East may be found in:
Tuson, Penelope : A brief guide to sources for Middle East studies in the India Office Records (London : India Office Library and Records, 1982).
Tuson, Penelope : The creation of modern Saudi Arabia (Leiden; IDC, 2004)
Tuson, Penelope : The creation of modern Iraq (Leiden; IDC, 2003)
Tuson, Penelope : Archival sources for Arabian and Gulf Studies in the India Office Records (s.l., 1977)
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 collections, drama and literature. These resources may be accessed through the Sound Archive catalogue.
A number of key electronic resources for the study of the Middle East are also available at the British Library. For licensing reasons, most of these may be accessed only from the Library’s reading rooms. Many important reference resources are held, including Index Islamicus, the Encyclopedia of Islam, the Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, Bibliographie du Levant, Index to Jewish Periodicals and Bibliography of the Hebrew Book. The Library also subscribes to a growing number of electronic journals relevant to Middle East studies.
In addition to these the Library offers access to
- academic theses
- official publications
- conference proceedings
- business information
- science and technology information
- prints and drawings
The appendices to the British Library’s Content Strategy describe current collection development for Middle East and African Studies.
The Online Gallery includes virtual books viewed through the Turning the Pages program, online exhibitions and features. Major items of Middle East interest include:
Sacred (online exhibition) :
Sacred Texts 78 sacred texts of all faiths including Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Sacred Texts on Turning the Pages including the Golden Haggadah, the Lisbon Hebrew Bible, and the Sultan Baybars’ Qur’an.
Hajj Certificate featured in the Maps and views on-line exhibition
Images Online gives instant access to thousands of images from the British Library's collections which include manuscripts, rare books, musical texts and maps. The range of images available includes illustrations, drawings, paintings and photographs. There are a substantial number of images from Persian, Hebrew, and Arabic manuscripts.
These are available in the Library's on-line shop. Major items of Middle East interest include:
Qur’an Manuscripts : Qur'an Manuscripts: Calligraphy, Illumination, Design. Colin F. Baker
Hebrew Manuscripts: The Power of Script and Image. Ilana Tahan
Bible Manuscripts: 1400 Years of Scribes and Scripture. Scot McKendrick and Kathleen Doyle
Turning the Pages: The Collection CD-Rom
The Asian studies internet links page includes a number of major internet resources for the study of the Middle East, including portals, bibliographies, guides, archives and visual material.
Asian and African Studies enquiries
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7873
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641
E-mail: Ask the Reference Team