Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library at Senate House Library, University of London

The Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library was formed in 1949. It is a research level library concentrating on the Commonwealth as an organisation; international relations of Commonwealth countries; and constitutional, political, demographic, social and economic development within the Commonwealth as a whole, and among individual member countries outside the UK. The Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library is a major resource for those working on the Commonwealth as a whole, or on any of its member states, in the fields of history, politics and international relations, agriculture, education, the environment, and social questions. It is the only research-oriented Library in London focussing on the Commonwealth.


The Library collects material from and about all Commonwealth African nations. Historical coverage of Africa generally extends back only as far as the commencement of British administration, though materials of particular relevance to the nineteenth-century are collected along with important titles relating to the Atlantic slave trade. The Library holds national responsibility for collecting English-language social science materials on Gambia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda under the SCOLMA area specialisation scheme. Other strengths include official publications, material on human rights, and coverage of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa.


The library holds an important collection of political pamphlets and ephemera, largely concentrated on the 1970s and 1980s and houses special collections including the United Africa Company Public Relations Office Library which includes books on West Africa from the 18th and 19th centuries, the John Gallagher collection of pamphlets and working papers on Lesotho, and archive collections including the papers of Ruth First, Baruch Hirson and a number of other anti-apartheid activists, and the papers of the scholar Michael Crowder and journalist Jack Halpern.


The Library is now part of the Senate House Library, University of London.

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