Mapping Asia homepage Mapping Asia splash logo
Project background Search collections Search newspapers Language skills External links Contributors login
Back to results pageQuick collection searchBrowse collection recordsAdvanced collection search

Islam and Middle East studies

Collection Details

Islam and Middle East studies held at SOAS Library [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

There are 4,500 monographs in the collection in Western languages concerned with Islam in general, and 4,200 concerned with the Middle East in general.

There are several thousand more pre-1880 monographs in closed access

History and development

Islam is one of the great traditions of Asia, and books on this subject are found throughout the collection under the different areas to which this religion and civilisation have spread. Many books in the Islamic languages of the Middle East cover aspects of Islam, and these have been included in the sections on the different languages. There is a significant number of books in Western languages on Islam in general, and on Islam in places like Europe and America which are not covered by separate divisions of the Library. There is similarly a significant number of books on the Middle East in general. Classical Islam has always been studied in depth in SOAS, but in recent times interest has grown in social aspects in general, the position of women, Islamic banking, the growth of political Islam and fundamentalism in its widest sense.


Important numbers of books within the general Islamic collection cover the doctrines of Islam, Islamic mysticism (Sufism) in general, the life of the prophet Muhammad, and social and political aspects of Islam.

There are important early printed works in the collection, going back to the some of the earliest Western printed books on the Middle East and Islam, in the following closed collections:

Auboyneau collection “several thousand rare books from the late 15th to 19th Century on history of the Near East”.

Wiliam Hartmann collection of 300 books and 4,000 pamphlets

Sir Thomas Arnold collection of 2,500 items

General arrangement and access regulations

Mainly open access. Older monographs (pre-1880 publications), archives, manuscripts and microforms are closed access.

Post 1880 monographs are arranged under two letters: N for Islam in general, and NB for the Middle East in general.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Near & Middle East and North Africa.

Languages of material

English, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish.


Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Communication and media, Development, Economics, Education, Environmental sciences, Geography, History, Human rights, International relations, Law, Literature, Medicine, Music, Philosophy, Politics and government, Religion, Travel, Women.

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Books, Maps (includes all types of cartographic material), Serials.

Total size of collection

8,700 volumes

Size of collection - western

4,500 volumes on Islam in general 4,200 volumes on the Middle East in general

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed, and the average intake has stayed the same.

Content date range

1600 to present

Interlibrary loan procedure

Co-operative agreements

  • MELCOM scheme: responsibility for publications in Arabic from North Africa and publications in Persian from Iran.
  • SCOLMA scheme: includes responsibility for African languages, Algeria, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia, as well as other countries south of the Sahara.
  • University of London agreements:
  • a) Siberian languages, including Eskimo and Aleut
  • b) Asian language texts on Middle Eastern Archaeology
  • c) Byzantium in Asian and African languages and works on the Asian and African aspects of Byzantine history
  • d) Descriptive works on the minor Finno-Ugrian languages
  • e) Law. Asian and African law in Western, Asian and African languages, including current legislation and law reports, with special responsibility for South Asian law.
  • British Library agreement

Collection policy

The Library aims to acquire the important contributions to Asian and African scholarship published anywhere in the world in the humanities and social sciences, as well as representative collections of literature written in Asian and African languages. It aims to be responsive to changing interests and new developments; at the same time it bears in mind its role as a leading national and international resource for Asian and African studies. For the text of the policy apply to the Director of Library and Information Services.

Retention policy

At present all material is retained with the following exceptions: outdated editions of teaching texts, multiple copies of teaching material no longer used, material for which there is no evident demand, material which has been replaced by microform, unless it is of historic value. Academic advice is normally sought before a decision is taken. Apply to the Director of Library and Information Services for further information.

Collection Catalogue Information


The online library catalogue offers access to all material acquired since 1989 and a substantial part of the material collected prior to that date. Work to add records for the earlier collections from the card catalogue is ongoing and by the end of 2002 all material acquired since 1979 will be included as well as significant parts of the rest of the collection. For those who cannot access the card catalogue on site the Library's catalogues have been published (details below).

Catalogue transliteration schemes

Since 1989 all records have been created using the current Library of Congress transliteration schemes, with the exception of Japanese which uses Modified Hepburn. As records are added to the online catalogue the transliterated records are being updated to these schemes.

Catalogue scripts

The current cataloguing and some of the earlier records for the following languages contain author and title fields in the relevant script: Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Ladino, Persian, Yiddish.

Links to other collections

Back to results pageQuick collection searchBrowse collection recordsAdvanced collection search