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.

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Mon: 10.00 – 17.00
Tue – Sat: 09.30 – 17.00
Sun & English Public Holidays: closed

Opening hours for all Reading Rooms

Blog posts

Living on a reduced income in 1868

Thursday, August 11, 2022

In April 1868 Charlotte Francis Laing sent a petition to the India Office for financial assistance. She had been reduced from affluence to ‘extreme penury’ when the failure of the Bank of Bombay took away her income from a holding...

Soldiers’ gardens in India

Thursday, August 4, 2022

There were two kinds of soldiers’ gardens in British India: regimental and company. Regimental gardens were worked by the men for fixed rates of pay, or by local people under supervision, and they supplied vegetables for the military commissariat department...

Papers of John Frederick Macnair

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

A new acquisition to the India Office Private Papers has recently been catalogued and is available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room. This is the papers of John Frederick Macnair, a partner in the...

The sale of East India Company maritime commands

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The British Library and London Metropolitan Archives both hold collections of papers for James Monro who served in the East India Company’s maritime service in the second half of the 18th century. The documents give a fascinating insight into Monro's...

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