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

Readers at desks in the Asian and African Reading Room

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 a range of free Reader sessions and 1-2-1 consultations 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

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.

Blog posts

Recording of the week: Friction drum song from Botswana

Monday, March 1, 2021

This week's selection comes from Dr. Janet Topp Fargion, Head of Sound and Vision. This song, based on the lyric 'The children of the traditional doctor can kill the medical doctor', is performed by Sebata on the sevuikivuiki friction drum...

‘Khadija Saye: in this space we breathe’ at the British Library

Thursday, February 18, 2021

On 3 December 2020, the British Library opened its exhibition of Khadija Saye’s last photographic series: ‘Dwelling: in this space we breathe’. The opening had been postponed from its original date in May because of the pandemic. With great good...

New online - December 2020 and January 2021

Friday, February 5, 2021

We have a bumper blog this month, covering new projects that went online at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. While access to physical archives is currently restricted in many parts of the world, digital archives are...

Highlights from the British Library’s Collection of Ethiopian Manuscripts

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Nativity of Jesus from an apocryphal text first written in Coptic in the 5th century. The full text only exists in the Ethiopian version. This 18th-century MS has 265 illustrations and was written for King Iyasu. The Holy Family...

More blog posts

Library experts

Marion Wallace

Lead Curator, African Collections

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