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

The 1914 United Missionary Exhibition 'Other Lands in Leicester': a global and colonial aspiration

Thursday, January 27, 2022

In April 1914 the newly built De Montfort Hall in Leicester hosted a United Missionary Exhibition. ‘Other Lands in Leicester’ was described as ‘A picturesque and vivid representation of work in many lands’. The exhibition was deliberately fixed during Easter...

Accessing West African Manuscripts in the British Library

Monday, January 24, 2022

The importance of the manuscripts of West Africa to scholarship, history, heritage and religion has long been recognised, and is of increasing interest to researchers and the public. Across the region, the manuscript collections of many libraries testify to long...

East African Life-Writing and Colonial History: New Perspectives from EAP Tanzanian Church Records

Friday, January 7, 2022

Among the many fascinating sources from the Endangered Archives Programme’s EAP099 project, which conserved and digitised records of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, is a set of Swahili-language essays, written in 1913 by young men at a German-led teacher...

Recording of the week: 'Kuli milimo', there is work in the house of the Lord

Monday, December 27, 2021

This week’s selection comes from Edoardo Marcarini, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage. Inspired by the festive atmosphere, I bring you not one but two recordings this week. These are meant to be appreciated together just like the...

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