Asian Britain: archives and manuscripts

Photograph of the interior of the Ayahs' Home in Hackney from G. R. Sims (ed.), Living London (London, 1904) (shelfmark: 10349.h.12)

A collection guide to introduce significant resources relating to Asian Britain amongst our archival and manuscript collections.

About the collection

Since the founding of the East India Company in 1600, gradually increasing numbers of people from South Asia have travelled to Britain to live and work. They came from all walks of life and included lascar seamen, ayahs (Indian nannies), princes, teachers, entertainers, students, politicians, campaigners, lawyers, doctors and soldiers fighting for Britain during the world wars. Their lives are documented in our collections, particularly in the India Office Records and Private Papers (c1600-1947). Further details are in Rozina Visram's brief guide.

Other collections of archives include many records relating to the history of Britain’s engagement with the world including Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Our post-war literary archives and manuscripts have material relating to diasporic literature in the UK since 1945. Collections include:

We also have manuscripts in South Asian languages as well as other Asian languages.

Web Archive

The UK Web Archive makes available collections covering 2006 to the penultimate year. It includes numerous websites dealing with Asian British issues. In our Reading Rooms, you can also view websites preserved under legal deposit legislation.

What is available online?

See the Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue to explore our collections.

You can find a selection of digitised material from the collections on Discovering Literature: 20th Century. Featured authors include Ayub Khan Din and Hanif Kureishi.

For rich information based on British Library resources see:

The UK Web Archive presents archived websites from 2006 to the penultimate year. It includes numerous websites dealing with Asian British issues.

You'll find relevant articles on the Asian and African studies, Untold lives and English and drama blogs.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Use the Manuscripts or Asian and African Studies Reading Rooms to view original documents.

The Legal Deposit UK Web Archive is available in all our Reading Rooms.

What is available in other organisations?

Moving Here offers extensive digitised records from the UK National Archives. It includes histories of people from the Caribbean and South Asia. See also Black Presence: Asian and Black History in Britain, 1500–1850 and other relevant online resources from the National Archives.

Records relating to the history of people of Asian origin in Britain can be consulted at numerous libraries and archives, including:

How to guides

Find and request Lord Chamberlain's Plays

How to locate items in our largest single manuscript collection

How to reuse images of unpublished manuscripts

Guide to the copyright of unpublished documents

Guide to Explore Archives and Manuscripts

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to browse the collections and how to request items

About Explore Archives and Manuscripts

With Explore Archives and Manuscripts you can search for information about our rich and unique archive and manuscript collections.

Access manuscripts and archives

Accessing manuscripts and archives and obtaining a Letter of introduction or recommendation

Get a Reader Pass

Access over 200 million collection items for free with a Reader Pass. Carry out research in our Reading Rooms and access our online collections.

Find Arabic manuscripts

Details of Arabic manuscripts are to be found in a number of catalogues

Search for Cyrillic items in the catalogue

How to search for Cyrillic items in the catalogue

Find papyri

How to identify papyri and request them

Find Persian manuscripts

Details of Persian manuscripts are to be found in a number of catalogues

Find charters, rolls, and seals

How to access medieval and early modern European documentary collections

How to order images

Instructions on how to order images of the British Library's collections from our Imaging Services