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Asian and African Studies

Institution Details

Asian and African Studies

Location in the UK

London & South East

Description of Collections


Asian and African Studies (A&AS), formerly known as latterly as Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections (APAC) and previously as Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC), is the focus within the British Library for materials relating to all the cultures of Asia, Islamic North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Caucasus.

Its holdings comprise printed and manuscript collections of world renown in all the languages of Asia from Hebrew and Arabic to Chinese and Japanese, the archives of the East India Company, the India Office and the Burma Office, plus collections of Western-language printed books and private papers, official publications, journals and newspapers, maps, and prints, drawings and photographs.

A&AS is probably the finest single library resource for Asian studies anywhere in the world.

History & development

A&AS (then OIOC) was formed in 1991 by the amalgamation of two departments: Oriental Collections (which derived from the former British Museum Library which opened to the public in 1759) and the India Office Library & Records (which joined the British Library only in 1982 having opened as a research library in 1801).

Together their holdings represent over two centuries of large-scale collecting, boosted in the 19th and early 20th centuries by various colonial legal deposit arrangements for printed books. A&AS is responsible for collecting that part of the UK national published archive in Asian (mostly South Asian) languages - primarily newspapers but increasingly also other serials and monographs.

User focus

A&AS supports research by academics in the UK and world-wide in all the humanities and social sciences relating to Asia and North Africa, but is particularly outstanding for the study of history, religions, linguistics and literatures, and art history.

Apart from academics, A&AS attracts many amateur researchers and lifelong learners (especially genealogists and military historians because of the India Office Records).

A&AS also maintains close contact with national libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions in countries throughout Asia.

Collections held in Asian and African Studies

Subjects and Material Types


Central Asia and the Caucasus, East Asia, Near & Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, South East Asia.


Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, East Timor, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The Philippines, Tibet, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen.

Languages of material

Achinese, Altaic (Other), Amharic, Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Assamese, Avestan, Azerbaijani, Balinese, Baluchi, Bashkir, Batak (Indonesia), Bengali, Buginese, Burmese, Chagatai, Chinese, Chuvash, Coptic, Danish, Dayak, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Gayo, Geez, Georgian, German, Gorontalo, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Iloko, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, Kachin, Kannada, Kara-Kalpak, Karen, Kashmiri, Kawi, Kazakh, Khotanese, Kirghiz, Korean, Kurdish, Ladino, Lao, Madurese, Makasar, Malay, Malayalam, Marathi, Minangkabau, Miscellaneous languages, Mon-Khmer (Other), Nepali, Newari, Nias, Norwegian, Oriya, Ossetian; Ossetic, Pahlavi, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Philippine (Other), Polish, Portuguese, Prakrit languages, Pushto, Russian, Samaritan Aramaic, Sanskrit, Sasak, Shan, Sinhalese, Sogdian, Spanish, Sundanese, Swedish, Syriac, Tagalog, Tajik, Tamil, Tatar, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Turkish, Turkish, Ottoman (1500-1928), Turkmen, Tuvinian, Uighur, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Yiddish.


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

Languages as linguistic focus

Amharic, Armenian, Coptic, Geez, Georgian, Korean, Pali, Persian, Prakrit languages, Sanskrit, Syriac, Tajik, Yiddish.

Material types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Audio materials (includes cassettes & CDs), Books, Computer files (includes CD-ROMs & other electronic material), Manuscripts, Maps (includes all types of cartographic material), Music (only includes printed & manuscript music), Newspapers (includes microfilm editions), Official publications, Public records, Serials, Theses, Visual materials (includes photographs, prints, drawings, videos & films).

Management Information

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

Annual intake

13,000 monographs, 13,000 serial parts, 9,500 newspaper parts, 2,400 microforms, 200 manuscript/private papers items, 100 prints and drawings, 500 photographs, plus a few maps and CD-ROMs

Content date range

1200 BC to present

Co-operative agreements

  • Agreement with the School of Oriental and African Studies Library, University of London (regarding shared access arrangements, collaborative collection development, etc.)

Collection policy

Retention policy

In principle all material is retained indefinitely. The only exceptions to this are the disposal of some hard-copy Asian newspaper holdings after microfilming and occasional duplicate printed books.

Catalogue Information


There is no 'single gateway' to APAC collections, either on the Web or in the British Library's reading rooms. The majority of APAC's modern printed accessions (except for certain Asian languages) are available via the Library's OPAC, but records for the historic printed collections very largely await retrospective conversion (being still to be found in hard-copy printed catalogues, card catalogues and on microfilk or microfiche). The India Office Records class lists are available in the APAC Reading Room in hard-copy (some have been published, but most not). Recently collection-level records have been contributed to the Access to Archives (A2A) project led by the Public Record Office. Catalogues of European Manuscripts, and Prints, Drawings & Photographs are soon to be mounted on the Library's OPAC. For further details see under the records for APAC's individual collections.

Catalogue transliteration

The Library of Congress transliteration schemes are used for the majority of Asian languages. For further details and the exceptions see under the records for APAC's individual collections

Catalogue scripts

Hebrew script is available on the Library's OPAC. Chinese and Japanese characters are used in the Allegro-C database.

Collection printed catalogues

For details see under the records for APAC's individual collections

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