SOAS University of London

SOAS Centenary

New Library (1973-1985)

By the 1970s the School had outgrown its premises and was becoming scattered over several sites. In 1973, the opening of the Library building (now the Philips Building) brought most activities back to Russell Square, and provided the Library with facilities appropriate to the international importance of the collection and to growing student numbers. The building was designed by eminent architect Denys Lasdun, who also designed the brutalist Institute of Education and the National Theatre on the South Bank.​

Architect's model for Philip's Building

Pictured above: architect's model of IoE and SOAS library building

1970s phonetics class

Pictured above : phonetics class, 1970s

Dr Anthony King of SOAS' Africa Department made many recordings of musical performance in the Gambia in 1970 when the kora - a 21-string harp - was unknown in the West. His student Dr Lucy Duran, continues to this day to research the Mande cultural region and its diaspora music and has been a leading figure in world music, producing three Grammy-nominated albums by Malian artists.

In the same decade as Dr King introduced the kora to western audiences, SOAS led a revolution in scholarship of religions. Mary Boyce​ published her magisterial 'History of Zoroastrianism informed by​ fieldwork​ in Iran in the 1960s, studying the living faith as practised by 'priests and housewives.' ​The School led the field of Development Economics, focusing on the economic challenges faced by some of the poorest countries in the world. Historians Jon Wansbrough and Michael Cooke caused controversy with new analysis of early Islamic history based on early Islamic manuscripts and the only surviving contemporary accounts of the rise of Islam, which were written in Armenian, Greek, Aramaic and Syriac.

Queen visits the Royal Africa Society_centenary_timeline
Pictured above: Her Majesty the Queen visits the Royal Africa Society

In this decade and the early 1980s the undergraduate programmes were reviewed. More two-subject degrees and a course unit system were introduced in parallel with developments elsewhere in the University of London. This period of vigorous expansion came to an end in the early 1980s when the then government cut university funding and increased fees for overseas students. In 1978, the School reeled with shock at the murder of historian Malcolm Caldwell in Cambodia just 3 hours after a personal interview with Pol Pot.