Our Middle East collections comprise manuscripts, printed books, newspapers and journals from countries in today's Middle East as well as from Iran and Central Asia from the 5th century AD to the present day.

Collection guides

  • Early 14th century botanical illustration

    Arabic collections

    Over 100,000 volumes of printed books, periodicals and newspapers; more than 15,000 manuscript works in about 14,000 volumes; and a range of other materials
  • A prince or dignitary presenting poets with turbans of honour

    Persian collections

    Over 40,000 volumes of printed books, periodicals and newspapers, more than 11,000 manuscripts, and a range of other materials.
  • Illuminated word panel featuring two birds

    Hebrew collections

    Manuscripts copied over 1,000 years ago to the most recent monographs and serials
  • The death of the King of Makkedah (Or 13704, f. 85r)

    Judeo-Persian

    The British Library has a small but important collection of Judeo-Persian manuscripts and printed books
  • Early British envoys to the Qajar Court from a contemporary copy of a fresco originally in the Negarestan Palace, Tehran (Add.Or.1241)

    India Office Records: Resources for Iran

    Archival sources for the study of Iran
  • Entrance to the main bazaar in Kabul about 1840

    India Office Records: Afghanistan Resources

    Archival resources relating to the modern history of Afghanistan found in the East India Company and India Office Records and Private Papers
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

Propaganda Portraits of Muslim Rulers during WW2

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Ministry of Information was the British Government department responsible for publicity and propaganda during the Second World War. On 22 August 1940, Arthur John Arberry at the Ministry of Information wrote to Roland Tennyson Peel at the India Office,...

The Queen’s poetry book: Hamidah Banu’s Divan-i Hijri

Monday, September 24, 2018

It is well established that the Mughal royal ladies were highly educated and could read and write in several languages. For example Babur’s daughter Gulbadan wrote her own autobiography (A Mughal princess's autobiography) and Princess Jahanara completed a life of...

Call for applications now open

Monday, September 24, 2018

Do you know of any collections that are currently at risk and need preserving? The Endangered Archives Programme is now accepting preliminary applications for the next annual funding round – the deadline for submission of preliminary applications is 12 noon...

‘South Asia Series’, Autumn/Winter 2018

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Asia and African Collections at the British Library (BL) are pleased to announce an exciting line-up of talks in their new 'South Asia Series', October-December 2018, featuring a diverse array of subjects from 'Theosophy and Bengali spirituality' to 'Miyan Himmat...

More blog posts

Selected items from our collections

Projects

Digital access to Persian Manuscripts

Our collection of Persian Manuscripts is one of the most important in the world

Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project

Aims to provide free online access to Hebrew manuscripts from the Library’s collection

All projects

Library experts

Ursula Sims-Williams

Lead Curator, Persian collections

Ilana Tahan

Lead Curator Hebrew and Christian Orient Studies

Daniel Lowe

Curator, Arabic Collections

Michael Erdman

Curator, Turkish and Turkic Collections

More staff members

External links

The British Library is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

AMIR

Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources

FIHRIST

A union catalogue for manuscripts in Arabic script in UK collections

Qatar Digital Library

Modern history and culture of the Gulf and wider region

Shop

Treasures in Focus The Golden Haggadah

The Golden Haggadah is one of the finest surviving Haggadah manuscripts from medieval Spain, and the British Library's most famous Hebraic treasure

£1

West Africa exhibition book

West Africa exhibition book

In this richly illustrated book, leading international scholars offer a unique insight into the stories of West African societies past and present

£25.00