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Asian, Pacific and Africa: periodicals and newspapers

The 50 current issues of periodicals in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, covering such subjects as family history (the Journal of the Families in British India Society), Chinese studies (T'oung pao), economics (Far Eastern economic review), and literature (Middle Eastern literatures and the Journal of Arabic literature), are representative of the APAC journals collection.

These give just a glimpse into our rich serials holdings. Our stock contains over 100,000 volumes of periodicals from more than 10,000 different titles. Although many of these have ceased publication, over 4,000 current titles are acquired by purchase, exchange or as donations. Current policy is to acquire one printed copy of a periodical for the Library's collections.

Periodicals and Official Publications

The range of subjects covered includes all aspects of the humanities & social sciences with research-level periodicals published in, or concerned with, Asia, the Pacific and Africa being taken. 

Current acquisitions policy excludes titles dealing with science, technology and law, but earlier material on these subjects is held. New titles published outside the UK, and therefore not received by the Library on copyright, are continually being added, with recent acquisitions including such titles as the Journal of Chinese overseas (British Library shelfmark ZD.9.a.247), Udaya: journal of Khmer studies (British Library shelfmark ZD.9.a.88), and Baghdad bulletin (British Library shelfmark ORB.40/606), an independent English language periodical published briefly in 2003 that reported on the early months of the occupation of Iraq.

Historically, holdings are particularly strong for titles published in or about the Indian subcontinent, with good collections of journals, official publications and gazettes of the pre-1947 government of India, and the publications of learned societies specializing in oriental studies.

Official government publications are still actively collected and many of these are published as serials. As well as the records on Explore the British Library, this website has more detailed information on our holdings of current South Asian official publications while the "Official publications of India bibliography" on the Digital South Asia Library website is a good resource for our older Indian material.

Holdings of Australian and New Zealand official publications are historically very strong and major federal government series, such as the primary legislation Statutes of New Zealand (British Library shelfmark CSG.638) and Acts of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia (British Library shelfmark CSG.540) are still acquired. Holdings of current African official publications series can be found in our online guide. Please note though that most official publications must be ordered and consulted in the Social Sciences Reading Room. Serials in oriental languages include many rare titles from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Electronic journals

Publishers are increasingly making their periodicals available in electronic format, with some, such as Studies on Asia and African studies quarterly only available online. Our subscriptions to some print journals also include access to the online version and these are listed on the Asian & African Studies Reading Room web pages, but please note also the much bigger list of Humanities based electronic journals, which includes many titles of interest. The subject listing of journal titles includes African studies (about 40 titles), Asian-Pacific studies (about 50 titles), Jewish studies (about 20 titles) and Middle Eastern studies (about 15 titles). 

For licensing reasons, the vast majority of these journals are only available to users in the British Library Reading Rooms, and cannot be accessed outside the Library.

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Periodical articles

Individual periodical articles are not listed individually on Explore the British Library. If you are looking for periodical articles on a particular subject then indexing and abstracting tools such as the Bibliography of Asian Studies, the Index to Jewish Periodicals and Index Islamicus must be used. With a full bibliographic reference you can then search for the periodical in Explore the British Library and, if held, order the required volume.

Most of these indexes are now available online and are listed on the web pages for the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, but please note also the full list of electronic resources available in the British Library Reading Rooms, which includes the larger databases such as the International bibliography of the social sciences and the Arts & Humanities citation index, which of course index material from and about Asia, Australasia and Africa. There are also some that are still only produced in print, such as the Guide to Indian periodical literature (British Library shelfmark OIH011.34), which indexes articles in around 500 Indian social science and humanities periodicals.

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Our collection of South Asian newspapers in English is described in the Handlist of Western Language South Asian newspapers held on microfilm, copies of which are available for consultation in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. Included in the Handlist are more than 20 titles that are still acquired, including the Times of India (British Library shelfmark SM 6), Pakistan times (British Library shelfmark SM 29), and the Hindustan times (shelfmark SM 27). For preservation and storage reasons these newspapers are all received on microfilm and there is therefore a time lag of several months between original publication and availability. More current summaries of press reports can be found in the Asian news digest, recent issues of which are kept in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room at shelfmark OIB950.05.

The Newsroom provides access to newspapers from Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  These titles are included in Explore the British Library. A number of African and Australian titles, and the New Zealand herald, are currently received on microfilm.

However, British Library Newspapers stopped collecting South Asian titles in 1983, so responsibility for newspapers from the region since then rests with APAC.

Oriental language newspapers are also held on microfilm and in hard copy. Handlists arranged by title and language are available at the Enquiry Desk in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room and a list of  is also available on our website. Most of the Library's holdings of newspapers in the languages of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are included on the Mapping Asian Newspapers database, which acts as a union catalogue of newspapers published in those regions and held by university, public, and specialized libraries in the UK. Searches can be limited to the holdings of newspapers from a single country at a particular library.

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Catalogues and ordering periodicals

The starting point for a search of the Library's periodicals is Explore the British Library. The vast majority of our western language periodicals already have catalogue records, and the intention is that all of our serial holdings will ultimately be listed there. To limit search results, it is possible to search for most periodicals on the Catalogue subset "Serials and periodicals" but users should be aware that some older catalogue records are not included here. 

Most of the Asian titles would also be found by searching on the "Humanities and Social Sciences 1975 onwards" subset , but if unsuccessful then the whole catalogue should be searched. If you are including a "Subject heading" form term in your search use "periodicals" rather than "journals" or "serials" as your search term. An alternative method of finding pre-1975 periodicals is to consult the hard copy British Library General Catalogue of Printed Books (OIN017.21), shelved at the base of the oriental card catalogues in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room, using the heading "Periodical publications, sub-divided by place of publication" (volumes 252-254 of the Catalogue). This can be a useful way of finding older periodicals with common or short names, where the alternative is working through a long list of results on Explore the British Library.

For pre-1947 Indian official serials, it is worth consulting the India Office Records Official Publications handlists, which give details of holdings of serials produced by the pre-Independence Indian government: V/6 (India Office serials), V/10 (Indian administration reports), V/11 (Indian gazettes), V/24 (Indian departmental annual reports) & V/25 (other departmental serial publications), all of which are available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

For oriental language titles it may be necessary to look in several different types of catalogue before finding a particular periodical. Explore the British Library contains records of oriental language titles, and further titles are being continuously added. The oriental card catalogues in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room also contain serials records in the various language sequences, and there is a two-fiche catalogue of "Current serials" arranged in one alphabetical listing by the fiche readers at the far end of Explore the British Library terminals area. (In spite of its name, it is now rather out of date.) In addition, on the left-hand wall after the bound volumes of oriental catalogues is a strip index of titles mainly from South Asia, arranged by title and by language. All these records are in transliterated form. Those interested in tracing Japanese and Chinese language titles in the original script should use the online UK Union Catalogue of Japanese Printed Books and Serials and the UK Union Catalogue of Chinese Books. Searches can be limited to British Library holdings. These catalogues are freely available on the Internet but can also be found in the "Other catalogues not in Explore the British Library" pages on Explore the British Library.

Once a title is located, whether online or in a printed, fiche or card catalogue, it is important to see if there is holdings information on the catalogue record, so as to be certain that the particular issue wanted is in stock. This is because many titles have gaps in holdings, or were simply not acquired from the first issue. The full catalogue entry will also sometimes indicate the existence of an index, which may in turn be used to trace individual articles within the run of the serial in question; any changes of title will also be recorded. Most serials found in Explore the British Library can be ordered in the normal way and users are prompted for the volume, part and year required. Other serials, microfilms and serials in the India Office Records (the V/ sequences referred to above) are ordered by direct requesting or the "order by shelfmark" option on Explore the British Library. Again, remember to give details of the volume, part and year required. Please note that many oriental language serials and newspapers are stored off site and at least 24 hours' notice is needed before delivery. Periodicals that are only held by our Document Supply service (on Explore the British Library, the shelfmarks are followed by 'DSC', e.g. Indian journal of criminology, British Library shelfmark 4410.900000 DSC) are ordered on forms held at enquiry or issue desks in the Reading Rooms. It is always worth checking that the periodical is not also held in the London collections or available electronically before ordering the DSC copy, as not only do items take 24/48 hours to be delivered, it is also possible that the issue is already on loan to another user via the inter-library loan scheme.

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Other sources

The following works are on open access in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room (shelfmarks in brackets).

Carnell, Peter W. Check-list of Japanese periodicals held in British university and research libraries (1976-78) (OIM011.34)

Chinese & Mongolian periodicals in the Chinese collections, Oriental & India Office collections: current titles only (2001) (ORC CHI PBS 9)

Choo, Yong K. Union list of Korean serials in East Asian libraries in the US (1994) (OIL011.34)

Contemporary Chinese Institute. A Bibliography of Chinese newspapers and periodicals in European libraries (1975) (OIK011.34)

MacDonald, Teresa. Union catalogue of the serial publications of the Indian government, 1858-1947, held in libraries in Britain (1973) (OIH011.53)

Makino, Yasuko. National union list of current Japanese serials in East Asian libraries of North America (1992) (OIM011.34)

Middle East Libraries Committee. Union catalogue of Arabic serials and newspapers in British libraries (1977) (OIE011.34)

Moon, Brenda E. Periodicals for South-east Asian studies: a union catalogue of holdings in British and selected European libraries (1979) (OIJ959.005)

Nunn, Raymond G. Burmese and Thai newspapers: an international union list (1972) (OIJ011.35)

Nunn, Raymond G. Southeast Asian periodicals: an international union list (1977) (OIJ011.34)

Shaw, Graham W., Quraishi, Salim. The Bibliography of South Asian periodicals: a union-list
of periodicals in South Asian languages
(1982) (ORC GEN PBS 6 & OIH011.34)

Sims-Williams, Ursula. Union catalogue of Persian serials & newspapers in British libraries (1985) (OIG011.34)

Tahan, Ilana. Master list of Hebraica and Judaica periodicals (1992-94) (ORC HEB PBS 7)

Union list of Chinese serials (1992) (ORC CHI PBS 5). Covers the holdings of the British Library and eleven other major collections in England and Scotland.

Waley, Muhammad Isa (ed.) Periodicals in Turkish and Turkic languages: a union list of holdings in UK libraries (1993) (OIF011.34)

N.B. Open-access reference works for the study of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands are located in the Humanities Reading Rooms. See the Australian and New Zealand collections pages for further details.

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Periodicals on open access in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room

The current issues only of these periodicals are on display in the African and Asian Studies Reading Room. The British Library shelfmarks for earlier issues are in brackets.

Acta Asiatica (11095.e.36)
Arabica (14599.e.43)
Archipel (14649.pp.6)
Arts of Asia (WZOR.1989.c.1)
Asian philosophy (WZOR.1991.a.69 & ZC.9.a.2882)
Asian profile (015000.d.8)
Asian studies review (ZC.9.a.4945)
British journal of Middle Eastern studies (ZK.9.a.3045)
Buddhist studies review (ST 1987)
Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (15017.h.8)
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (ST 367)
Central Asiatic journal (15018.g.5)
Contemporary South Asia (WZOR.1992.a.12 & ZC.9.a.3117)
Critical Asian studies (WZOR.1991.a.15)
Dead Sea discoveries (WZOR.1994.a.47)
Far Eastern economic review (15590.b.6)
Harvard journal of Asiatic studies (11110.d.4)
Indiaman magazine (WZOR.1997.a.72)
Indian economic and social history review (ST 1249)
Indo-Iranian journal (15018.d.5)
Islam and the modern age (SV 452)
Islamic law and society (WZOR.1994.a.46)
Islamic studies (ST 1178)
Jerusalem studies in Arabic and Islam (14599.eee.100)
Jewish quarterly review (15003.a)
Journal of Arabic literature (14599.eee.27)
Journal of Asian history (SV 427)
Journal of Asian studies (SV 303)
Journal of Japanese studies (11093.e.88)
Journal of the American Oriental Society (ST 481)
Journal of the economic and social history of the Orient (SV 266)
Journal of the Families in British India Society (FBIS) (ZK.9.a.7347)
Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Ac.8820/3)
Man in India (ST 152)
Manuscripta Orientalia (WZOR.1996.a.13)
Middle Eastern literatures (ZC.9.a.5189)
Modern Asian studies (ST 1332 & P.801/199)
The Muslim world (ST 154)
Pacific affairs (SV 460)
South Asia (SV 431)
South Asia research (ST 1893 & P.701/179)
South East Asia research (WZOR.1994.a.1 & ZC.9.a.3418)
Studia Iranica (SV 575)
T'oung pao (15013.a)