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.

Centre of African Studies Library Cambridge

The Centre of African Studies was established in 1965 by the path-breaking anthropologist, Dr Audrey Richards. It  acts as a hub for graduate level and faculty research, runs weekly seminars and research workshops for graduate students and  organises international conferences both in Cambridge and in African institutions.  In addition to fostering PhD level research, it runs a one-year interdisciplinary MPhil in African Studies.

 The primary function of the Library is to support the research and teaching needs of the University in the study of Africa, in particular   Africa South of the Sahara, and to support the Centre’s work in promoting research on Africa, and the work of the constituent departments in the University. A secondary function is, by its policy of buying African published material,  to disseminate research carried out in Africa. The Library collects material in the areas   of history, economics, politics, social sciences, geography and anthropology,  religion, archaeology, literature, film and popular culture. a significant proportion  published in Africa, the US or Europe  Library website

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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