We have printed books, journals and newspapers published all over the world, in European and African languages. Our collections also include manuscripts and archives, sound recordings, maps and stamps, as well as some film, visual material and sheet music.

Collection guides

Asia and Africa

Asian & African Studies Reading Room

  • Find information on the shelves
  • Access online databases and electronic books and journals
  • Order collection items to the Reading Room via our catalogues

If you need help, just ask our Information Specialists at the Reference Enquiry desk or contact the Asian & African Studies Reference Team.


We offer free Discovery and 1-2-1 Sessions to help you make the best use of the Library's collections.

You’ll need a Reader Pass

Mon: 10.00 – 17.00
Tue – Sat: 09.30 – 17.00
Sun & English Public Holidays: closed

Opening hours for all Reading Rooms

Blog posts

Recording of the week: a lesson in bird song duets and trios

Monday, April 22, 2019

This week's selection comes from Greg Green, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage. With hundreds of recordings of birds from around East Africa, Myles E. W. North is a name that constantly crops up within the enormous collection...

Two recent flight-related additions to the Map Collection

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Today’s commercial pilots are well equipped to detect and fly over or around meteorological obstacles such as thunderstorms that lie in their path, so that as passengers behind we are rarely troubled by them. But imagine if you were flying...

British Empire maps of Africa added online

Friday, April 19, 2019

Around the turn of the 20th century the British War Office in London maintained a library of original, mostly hand-drawn mapping that covered large parts of the world where detailed and reliable surveys were not otherwise available. The maps were...

BL Labs 2018 Teaching & Learning Award Runner Up: 'Pocahontas and After'

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

This guest blog is by Border Crossing, the 2018 BL Labs Teaching & Learning Award Runners Up, for their project, 'Pocahontas and After'. Two images, each showing two young women dressed to show their culture, their pride, their sense of...

More blog posts

Library experts

Marion Wallace

Lead Curator, African Collections

Case studies

More Case studies
…Data visualisation tools allowed me to present a new perspective on the EAP projects in Africa…

Data visualisation tools allowed me to present a new perspective on the EAP projects in Africa.

…The British Library is rich in resources and digital ingenuities that libraries and information professionals have a lot to learn from. …

Oluwaseun is a Chevening Fellow working at the British Library on a project tagged ‘Big Data and Libraries’. The project focuses on learning from digital and data initiatives at the BL, as well as improving global visibility of obscure research datasets.

…For a PhD student, this is an unparalleled privilege…

Working with our Arabic manuscripts from West Africa: Paul Naylor, AHRC collaborative PhD student.

External links

The British Library is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

African Studies Association (UK)

A scholarly organization for African Studies researchers

Afrique francophone

Links to resources on French-speaking Africa

A-Z of African Studies on the Internet

Websites and e-resources

Connecting Africa

A gateway to African research information and materials produced worldwide

ilissAfrica

Offers access to research resources on the sub-Saharan Africa region

SCOLMA

A forum on African studies materials in libraries and archives in the United Kingdom