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 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

Black History Month: King Menelik and Queen Taytu's phonograph message to Queen Victoria

Friday, October 18, 2019

Negusa Nagast (King of Kings) Menelik II of Ethiopia Guest blog by Eyob Derillo of the British Library Ethiopian collection The year 2019 marks the 175th anniversary of the birth of King Menelik II, one of Ethiopia’s most famous and...

Recording of the week: No prisoners

Monday, October 7, 2019

This week's selection comes from Mat Hart, World & Traditional Music volunteer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage. This beautiful song is composed and performed by Madi Lehbib, who sings and plays percussion on this track, with accompaniment from guitarist Mahmud...

BL Labs Symposium (2019): Book your place for Mon 11-Nov-2019

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Image taken from page 203 of '[Griffith's new historical description of Cheltenham and its vicinity ... with ... engravings. L.P.]' Posted by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of BL Labs The BL Labs team are pleased to announce that the seventh annual...

Labbers of the world unite to write a book in 1 week through a Book Sprint

Friday, September 20, 2019

Posted by Mahendra Mahey Manager of BL Labs. I can't believe it's been a year since people from national, state, regional, university libraries (as well as a few galleries, archives and museums) met in London to attend the first global...

More blog posts

Library experts

Marion Wallace

Lead Curator, African Collections

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.

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