SOAS – School of Oriental and African Studies


The Africa collection at SOAS Library encompasses the whole of Africa and broadly covers the humanities and social sciences.

The collection includes rare books and manuscripts in addition to recent and current publications, both in print and other formats (for example audio-visual and electronic formats) from around the world.

SOAS Library is a research and teaching collection supporting the needs of the School’s staff and students as well as being a national collection. The School was founded as the School of Oriental Studies in 1916. Although Africa was not included in the name, material on and from Africa has been collected since this time. Some African material pre-dates the School’s foundation as a result of donations or through subsequent purchase of material.

A particular strength of the collection is the Library’s collection of African vernacular languages which is unique within the UK and Europe.  Material is acquired in, and on all African languages rather than just those taught/researched at SOAS.

The Library has a number of special collections including the Hardyman Madagascar Collection, Society of Libyan Studies Library, Onitsha Market Literature Collection,  Hausa Popular Fiction: Furniss Collection and African Christianity: Gifford Collection.

Most African materials are on open access, however some types of material (for example rare books, manuscripts, special collections, pamphlets and DVDs ) have to be ordered – collections of these types of materials are made through the day.

The SOAS Library catalogue is available online.

Whilst most items can be found in the online catalogue some older material can be found in the older Card catalogue.

SOAS Archives

SOAS Library holds important collections of archives and manuscripts relating to Africa. There are significant archives and papers documenting the activities of major British missionary societies, and of individual missionaries.

The Archive Catalogue provides descriptions for archive collections in the Library, in addition to more detailed catalogue records for particular collections.

There are significant holdings of African manuscripts including the Swahili Manuscripts Collection. Papers of scholars, writers, travellers, and other significant figures whose life or work is important to the study of Africa are actively acquired.

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