Asian Britain: publications

Display of book covers
A selection of books held by the British Library

The British Library holds a wide-ranging and growing collection of published materials from around the world, with strong coverage of publications from Britain. These include books, academic and scientific journals, magazines, pamphlets and zines, e-books, e-journals and websites.

About the collection

The British Library’s holdings of publications are wide-ranging and cover all disciplines. The Library has very strong holdings of British publications, and strong holdings of publications from around the world, in English and a wide range of other languages. They include academic and general interest publications, as well as government publications, legal and business resources, children’s books, newspapers, magazines, fiction, graphic novels, comics, zines and newsletters.

The collections include a wide range of publications from and about Asia in all formats, with strong coverage of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. British Asian fiction is well represented through the works of numerous writers ranging from pioneers such as Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao, V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie, to more contemporary bestsellers incuding Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, Tahmima Anam and A A Dhand.

While it is rich in historical resources, the collection of printed publications is still growing. Many recent British publications come into the Library in electronic format, as e-books or e-journals. You can consult these in our Reading Rooms soon after publication.

The collections feature:

  • very extensive coverage of books, journals and newspapers published in India before 1947, alongside extensive holdings of more recent publications from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries in Asia, and from Africa including Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, and from the Caribbean
  • ‘Proscribed Publications’, including more than 2000 pamphlets, periodicals, handbills and posters banned by the British government in India during the crucial four decades leading up to Independence.
  • pamphlets and newssheets of the League of Coloured Peoples from the early 1930s
  • publications from Hansib Publications, Hope Road, Dahlia and other smaller UK presses focusing on the work and experience of Asian communities in Britain, as well as Peepal Tree Press and others committed to inclusion  
  • journals associated with the Asian Youth Movement, including issues of Black Dimension, Race Today and Race & Class.
  • very strong holdings of newspapers and magazines from Britain and Asia, and archived websites of UK newspapers published only online. Current UK newspapers received include Asian Voice, Gujarat Samachar, Bangla Post, Weekly Potrika (Br̥ṭenera sāptāhika patrikā) and Weekly Desh (Sāptāhika dēśa).
  • contemporary zines focused on race, ethnicity or identity.

What is available online?

Use our main catalogue Explore the British Library to find books, journals, newspapers and printed music. The option to ‘Explore Further’ lets you search for online materials.

Older books that we have digitised and made available freely online can be found by searching our main catalogue Explore the British Library. From the search results, selecting ‘online’ in the left hand window will display materials that can be viewed online outside the Library. Select ‘I want this’ to view an individual item.

Discovering Literature includes digitised treasures from our collection, newly commissioned articles, short documentary films and teachers’ notes. Some of these are relevant to Asian Britain, for example the published journalism of Hanif Kureishi.

Early Indian Printed Books This extensive collection of rare Indian printed books provides a unique insight into Bengali social, political and cultural life through published works of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The UK Web Archive includes archived websites where website owners have given permission for them to be available outside the Library.

Asians in Britain includes extracts from pamphlets and newspapers from the period 1858-1950.

The Endangered Archives Programme gives access to some publications held in Asian countries.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Almost all of the Library’s published materials are listed on Explore the British Library. Older materials in some Asian languages are listed in printed catalogues in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

You can study most publications in any Reading Room. Some early printed books are restricted to the Rare Books & Music or the Asian and African Studies Reading Rooms .

The Newsroom has microfiche readers and computers to access news resources online.

You can read electronic journals and books on Reading Room computer terminals.

A number of electronic resources relating to Asia are available. For licensing reasons, most of these may be accessed only from our Reading Rooms. These include:

  • Bibliography of Asian Studies
  • Digital Dictionaries of South Asia
  • South and Southeast Asian Literature
  • Index Islamicus.

The Journal of Asian Studies is available electronically through Explore the British Library.

What is available in other organisations?

Striking Women is an educational site about migration, women and work, workers' rights, and the South Asian women workers during the Grunwick and Gate Gourmet industrial disputes.

The library of School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS), University of London, has extensive holdings of materials from and about Asia.

The Royal Asiatic Society provides a forum for those who are interested in the languages, cultures and history of Asia to meet and exchange ideas.

The Institute of Race Relations have briefing papers and selected articles from ‘Race and Class’ available through their website.

The Runnymede Trust  website includes resources, briefing papers and publications.

Tandana Glowworm Archive is an online archive of the visual and ephemeral culture of South Asian struggle in Britain for social, cultural and political rights, based at the University of Central Lancashire.

Relevant websites also include the Digital South Asia Library, the Buddhist Digital Resource Center  and Digital Himalaya .

Further information

Rozina Visram, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)

Susheila Nasta and Florian Stadtler, Asian Britain: A Photographic History (London: Westbourne Press, 2013)

Amrit Wilson, Dreams, Questions, Struggles: South Asian Women in Britain (London: Pluto Press, 2006)

Jas Bains and Sanjiev Johal, Corner flags and corner shops: the Asian football experience (London: Phoenix, 1999)

Rehan Hyder, Brimful of Asia: negotiating ethnicity on the UK music scene (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017)

Chandrika Patel, The taste of British South Asian theatres: aesthetics and production (London: Lulu Publishing Services, 2015)

Seán McLoughlin, William Gould, Ananya Jahanara Kabir and Emma Tomalin, Writing the city in British Asian diasporas (Routledge, 2014)

Reviews of contemporary British Asian literary writing can be found in The Asian WriterWasafiri and Sable LitMag.