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 duet for Ugandan lyres

Monday, November 12, 2018

This week's selection comes from Tom Miles, Metadata Coordinator for Europeana Sounds. This song, recorded in Kamuli, Uganda in 1954 by the pioneering ethnomusicologist Klaus Wachsmann, is of two ntongoli players, Kaija and Isake Ibande, from the Soga culture. Abe...

Recording of the week: West Africa Lagos Digital Edition

Monday, October 22, 2018

This week's selection comes from Dr Janet Topp Fargion, Lead Curator of World and Traditional Music. Visitors to the Ake Arts and Book Festival to be held in Lagos, Nigeria, from 25-28 October 2018 will be able to see a...

Manuscripts from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms online

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The British Library holds the world’s most important collections of books made or owned in England between the eclipse of Roman Britain and the Norman Conquest of 1066. These books and documents contain crucial evidence for the development of society,...

Black History Month - The Gold Coast Police Band

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music For Black History month in previous years I have highlighted the career and work of classical musicians such as Dean Dixon and Cullen Maiden. While considering people for this year’s blog, I received...

More blog posts

Library experts

Marion Wallace

Lead Curator, African Collections

Case studies

…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