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

‘So Long’ from King Naimbanna II - Manuscripts from an 18th Century African King

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Within the Clarkson Papers there are a number of volumes relating to the settlement of Freetown, Sierra Leone, from 1791 onwards. These were explored in a series of Untold Lives blogs called The Lives and Letters of the Black Loyalists....

Black History Month – Carlisle and Wellmon

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Carlisle and Wellmon (BL shelfmark 1SS0009976) By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music For Black History Month this year, I was delighted to find early recordings of two African American musicians made in London. The piano duo team of Carlisle...

‘Writing is a tattoo’ — Kamel Daoud and his work

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Kamel Daoud is an Algerian journalist based in Oran, where he has been for several years the Chief Editor for Le Quotidien d’Oran, the third largest French-language Algerian newspaper, and the author of a much-read column ‘Raïna Raïkoum’ (‘My Opinion,...

Investigating German colonialism in the British Library’s collections

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Content warning: This blog reproduces an image from a historical publication which is now considered racist Last week, the Zanzibari writer Abdulrazak Gurnah became the first black African author in 35 years to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Judges...

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