SOAS Library
  • Context
  • Collection
  • Coverage
  • E-Resources
  • Future


1. The Department

The Ancient Near East, Semitics and Judaica section is integrated into the Near and Middle East Department at the School departmental level but its collections have traditionally been maintained and serviced separately in the Library

The section offers undergraduate and MA programmes in Ancient Near Eastern, Israeli and Hebrew studies, and Certificate courses in Hebrew and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. MPhil / PhD programmes are available.

The section currently has 8 FTE academic staff and 19.5 FTE students, including 16.5 undergraduates and 3 taught postgraduates

For more information see:

2. The Centres

2.1 Centre for Jewish Studies
  • The Centre is committed to the promotion of Jewish and Israeli Studies through scholarship, teaching, book launches, workshops, public events, conferences and symposia, debate and discussion.
  • It seeks to research and to communicate the richness of the Jewish experience and thereby raise the profile of Jewish and Israeli Studies at SOAS, and to cooperate with other academic institutions both in this country and Israel
  • For more information see: Centre for Jewish Studies
2.2 London Centre for the Ancient Near East
  • The Centre aims to promote London as a centre for the study of the ancient Near East (the geographical areas of Mesopotamia, the Levant, Egypt and the Sudan, the Arabian peninsula, Iran, Anatolia and the Aegean world, as well as the Indus valley and other neighbouring regions)
  • It aims to establish closer relations between colleagues with interests in the Ancient Near East on the staff of the various academic institutions in London
  • For more information see: London Centre for the Ancient Near East


3. History

  • The Ancient Near East, Semitics and Judaica section in the Library dates from the foundation of the School in 1916
  • The bulk of the Yiddish and Ladino holdings are made up of bequests from the Stencl, Leftwich and Whitechapel Yiddish collections
  • The Library has actively built up collections in the fields of Ancient Near Eastern studies, Semitics and Judaica
  • The Library has supported course reading lists and selectively purchased material on Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Semitics and Judaica.

4. Languages

The Library collects material for this section in:

  • European languages, especially English
  • Also languages of Asia, Africa and the Middle East (especially Hebrew) for regional publications
  • For more details see the  General Collection Development Policy

5. Classification

The collection uses an in-house style of classification. It is classified using a mixed notation of letters to describe country, peoples or languages and a variation on Dewey Decimal Classification to describe the subject.

The main prefixes for the collection are:

  • QB : Ancient Near East (general)
  • QC : Ancient Near Eastern languages and literatures (general)
  • QD : Ancient Mesopotamia
  • QE : Languages of ancient Mesopotamia
  • QF : Ancient Asia Minor
  • QG : Languages of ancient Asia Minor
  • QH : Ancient Syria
  • QI : Biblical and related subjects
  • QJ : Palestine / Israel (in Western languages)
  • QK : Semitic languages
  • QL : Languages of Syro-Palestine 1
  • QM : Languages of Syro-Palestine 2 (Aramaic)
  • QN : Langugaes of Syro-Palestine 3 (Hebrew)
  • QO : Jews and Judaism (in Western languages)
  • QP : Jewish dialects (Yiddish, Ladino)
  • QQ : Semitic languages of Ethiopia
  • QR : Ancient Egypt
  • QS : Hamito-Semitic languages (including Coptic)
  • QT : Byzantine Empire
  • QU : Mediterranean islands
  • QV : Mediterranean languages
  • All "Large" books are prefixed "L"
  • All Reference material is prefixed "Ref", "L Ref" or "Ex L Ref"

6. Special Collections

Stencl, Abraham Nahum (PP MS 44)
  • The archive consists of Stencl’s correspondence with many noted Yiddish writers, cuttings from Yiddish newspapers, photographs, manuscripts of other Yiddish works, and a collection of Stencl’s own manuscripts and proof-sheets of articles.
  • For more information see Archives

n.b The book collections (comprising over 2000 items of 19th and 20th century Yiddish books and journals) are mostly integrated into the main Library holdings.

  • Many of the Library's other collections in this section, especially those on the Ancient Near East, Hebrew, Yiddish and the Ethiopic-Semitic languages are recognized as being of national significance


Within the School, the Library supports the teaching and research needs of:

Undergraduate, postgraduate and research students of the School, and research interests of the School's staff in the following:


The collections comprise material on:

  • Ancient Near East - languages, literatures and cultures of Ancient Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia and Israel
  • Byzantine Empire
  • Coptic
  • Ethiopian-Semitic languages - comprises cheifly Ge'ez (Ethiopic), Amharic and Tigrinya
  • Hebrew - the focus is on Modern Hebrew and the collection slants towards language and literature with more selective collection in other fields
  • Modern Israeli / Palestinian studies
  • Western-language Jewish studies - primarily on Judaism, Jewish culture (especially music) and Jewish history
  • Yiddish - Ladino - the bulk of this collection is made up of bequests from the Stencl, Leftwich and Whitechapel Yiddish material

The Library aims to collect relevant material to a teaching level to support all courses containing subjects specific to the Ancient Near East (as defined by the classification scheme), Hebrew, Jewish and modern Israeli Studies


The collection aims to collect material to a research level for all the subject areas detailed in section 8 below :

8. Detailed Structure

The main subject areas of collecting for the study of the Ancient Near East, Semitics, Judaica and the Hebrew language are detailed below (based on the Conspectus Level). For details on the Conspectus Level see Collection Development Policy .

For details on the following subject areas, see the relevant subject statements

8.1 Ancient Near East
  • Ancient Near Eastern texts in cuneiform on:
    • Economic history
    • Divination and magic
    • Intellectual life
    • Literature
    • Religion
    • Science
    • Social history
  • Hieroglyphic Luwian texts on the above
  • Historical documents
  • Historical geography (Anatolia)
  • Languages and literatures
    • Akkadian scribal cultures
    • Epic of Gilgamesh
    • Hittite scribal cultures
  • Philology
    • Akkadian
    • Hittite
    • Sumerian
8.2 Byzantine Empire
  • Art
  • History
  • Religion
  • Politics
8.3 Coptic
  • Coptic Language
  • Coptic Church
    • History
    • Literature
    • Liturgy
    • Monastic traditions
    • Theology
8.4 Judaism
  • Ancient Judaism
  • Jewish art
  • Jewish music
  • Judaizing movements (in India and Africa)
  • Rabbinic anthropology
  • Rites and traditions
  • Sacred texts
  • Theology and ethics
  • Traditions and rites
  • Jewish philosophy
8.5 Modern Israeli/Hebrew Studies
  • Art (ancient and modern)
  • Culture and society in Israel
  • Development studies in modern Israel
  • History (including Hellenic and Roman periods)
  • Israeli-Palestine conflict
  • Jerusalem
  • Jewish theology and ethics
  • Judaizing movements (in India and Africa)
  • Languages
    • Aramaic
    • Babylonian Jewish Aramaic
    • Hebrew (Medieval)
    • Mandaic
    • Syriac
  • Rabbinic anthropology
  • Sociology of gender
  • Zionism (Jewish and Christian)


9. Major Databases

General Databases
  • Academic Search Premier (EBSCOHost)
  • Cambridge Books Online (e-books)
  • Cambridge Journals Online
  • Dawsonera (e-books)
  • EBSCOHost
  • Index to Theses
  • InformaWorld
  • IngentaConnect
  • International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS)
  • ISI Web of Science / Knowledge
  • Oxford Journals Online
  • Oxford Reference Online
  • Periodicals Archive Online
  • Project MUSE
  • Sage Journals Online
  • Wiley Online Library
  • WorldCat
  • Zetoc
Specific Databases
  • Brill Online (for Encyclopedia of Judaism)
  • Gale Online Reference Library (for Encyclopedia of Religion)
  • Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies (MECAS) (via EBSCOHost)

10. Online Subject Guide

For more information and online resources see the Ancient Near East, Semitics and Judaica Subject Guide

For subject specific databases see Subject Statements

For other databases SOAS subscribes to see A-Z databases list


11. Trends for the Future

Move towards more online full-text resources where possible and appropriate:

  • As the national collection for Asian, African and Middle Eastern studies the Library retains one endeavours to provide electronic access to these materials (e-journals, databases, e-books &c.), where available
  • For subjects of a theoretical, general or non-regional nature the electronic version (e-journals, databases, e-books &c.) is favoured