Asian & African Studies Reading Room

Readers at desks in the Asian and African Reading Room

The Asian & African Studies Reading Room is on the third floor at St Pancras and has a wealth of information and resources to help you in your research.

This reading room is the enquiry point for most of the Library's Asian & African Collections. Here you can consult Oriental manuscripts, printed books and serials, as well as the East India Company and India Office Records and Private Papers.

Visual materials from the Asian & Africa Collections such as photographs, prints, drawings, and paintings can be consulted in the Print Room, which is located within the Reading Room, by prior appointment.

In the Asian & African Studies Reading Room you can:

  • View our extensive open access collection material
  • Access online databases and electronic books and journals
  • Use our catalogues to order items from our extensive reference collection.

Reference enquiries

If you need help, ask our Reference Specialists at the Enquiry Desk. They can:

  • Guide you to the most appropriate material for your research
  • Advise you on how to access and use our printed and electronic collections most effectively
  • Help you to use our catalogues and answer your bibliographic enquiries
  • Suggest other libraries, archives and institutions that you might find useful in your research, or guide you to relevant websites and free online resources
  • Provide a range of free Reader sessions and 1-2-1 consultations to help you find your way around the collections and to make the best use of them.

If your enquiry requires more specialist help than we can provide we will forward your enquiry to the appropriate person in the British Library or suggest alternative sources.

If you are unable to visit you can contact the Asian & African Studies Reference Team, use our Quick Chat service, or get in touch via Twitter.

Items on shelves in this Reading Room

  • Specialist reference material on Asia as well as North and Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Printed catalogues of Oriental manuscripts and early printed books and serials
  • India Office Records and Private Papers hand lists
  • Indexes to baptisms, marriages, and burials of Europeans and Anglo-Indians in pre-Independence India and Burma
  • Microfilmed records of baptisms, marriages, and burials, along with some civil fund and pension records, cadet papers and Bengal and Madras army records
  • Indian Army Medal Rolls
  • Indian Directories and Almanacs
  • Indian Army and Civil Service Lists
  • A selection of recent and current journals relating to Asian and African Studies


Find Chinese books and manuscripts

You may need to consult a number of different catalogues to find items in our Chinese collection.

Find Arabic manuscripts

Our Arabic manuscripts collection includes more than 15,000 works in over 14,000 volumes.

Find Persian manuscripts

Our Persian manuscripts collection includes more than 11,000 works. Details are to be found in a number of catalogues

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