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

Introducing Doctoral Students to the Asian and African Collections at the British Library

Friday, February 9, 2018

Curators of the Asian and African Collections recently welcomed 45 eager doctoral students to a training day at the British Library. The session, for students in the first year of their PhDs, provided an introduction to the research materials on...

Recording of the week: Dongo lamellophone and fireside chatting

Monday, February 5, 2018

This week's selection comes from Isobel Clouter, Curator of World & Traditional Music. Here is an intimate recording made by one of our long time field recordists John Brearley. Travelling with his own violin to encourage a two-way flow of...

African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia

Monday, February 5, 2018

February 6th marks the opening of a new display, “African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia,” in the British Library’s Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery. It will be the first exhibit to be held at the Library devoted entirely to Ethiopian...

When it’s Not Rude to Point: Manicules in Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogue

Thursday, January 18, 2018

We’ve all been taught that it’s rude to point. But did you know that a pointing finger was quite a popular symbol in early manuscripts? Lord Kitchener's pointing finger demands Britons enlist for the First World War (Wikicommons) First used...

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