Asian Britain: archives and manuscripts

Residents of the Ayahs' Home in Hackney reading and sewing
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).

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 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 from 2006 to as recently as last 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, Hanif Kureishi and Shiva Naipaul.

For rich information based on British Library resources see:

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. We don't generally provide access to uncatalogued material, but please contact the Manuscripts Reference Enquiry Team for further advice on this.

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: