We have rich resources for the study of South Asia past and present. South Asia is taken to include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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

Blog posts

Requests to the India Office for help

Thursday, December 1, 2022

A common activity for the India Office was fielding enquiries from members of the public asking for help. These usually involved help in either travelling to India, in tracing friends or relatives, disputes over money, applications for jobs in government,...

East India Company discharged soldiers

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

In the India Office Records are two fascinating registers of discharged soldiers for the period 1820-1882. They record soldiers other than commissioned officers who served in the East India Company armies in Bengal, Madras, Bombay and St Helena, and in...

The Attempted Assassination of Lord Lytton: A Letter’s Story

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Archivists respect ‘provenance’ and ‘original order’, which means that documents created by the same person, organisation, or institution stay together, and you don’t mix or rearrange them because you think it might make material more ‘useable’. But documents often have...

Finding employment for surplus Indian Army Officers

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Following the implementation in April 1923 of the Royal Warrant 1922 a number of Indian Army Officers found their roles ‘surplus to requirements’. One of the opportunities presented to these officers, was the opportunity to settle in the state of...

More blog posts

Staff profiles

Dr Malini Roy

Head of Visual Arts

Dr Antonia Moon

Lead Curator, post-1858 India Office Records

Dr Margaret Makepeace

Lead Curator, East India Company Records

More staff members

Case studies

More Case studies
…The BL Newspaper collections are vast and in many cases also rare and unique in their content and collection histories. …

Junaid-Ul-Hassan is a Chevening Fellow working at the British Library on a project titled ‘News and Media in South Asia: Past and Present’.

…The archival material provides fascinating insights…

Christian is evaluating the archival material of Dutch ethnomusicologist Arnold Adriaan Bake.

Featured collection items

Projects

Sinhalese Manuscripts Pilot Digitisation Project

A pilot digitisation project that aims to make freely available four palm leaf manuscripts from the British Library’s Sinhalese manuscript collections

Two Centuries of Indian Print

An international collaboration to digitise South Asian printed books

Digital access to Persian Manuscripts

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

All projects

External links

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

Centre of South Asian Studies

University of Cambridge

Find my past

Records of baptisms, marriages, burials, wills, pensions, military and civil career information

The National Archives

Records relating to the East India Company, and the Family Records Centre