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


1. The Department of Languages and Cultures of South Asia

The department is devoted to research and teaching in the languages, literatures and cultures of the Indian subcontinent, with the aim of reaching better understanding of one of the most complex and significant areas of the world.

The department offers undergraduate, MA and MPhil/PhD programmes.

The department has 13 FTE academic staff and 56.9 FTE students, including 31.3 undergraduates, 15.7 taught postgraduates and 10.0 research students.

For more information see:

2. Institutes and Centres

2.1 SOAS South Asia Institute (SSAI)
  • The Institute is primarily responsible for recording and publicising academic activities on South Asia, and for organising seminars, workshops and conferences
  • It is a central point of contact between SOAS and the wider London community on issues connected with South Asia.
  • There is an annual lecture, and several occasional lectures are arranged to provide a forum for scholars visiting SOAS from all over the world.
  • For further information see SOAS South Asia Institute (SSAI)
2.2 Centre of Jaina Studies
  • The aim of the Centre of Jaina Studies (COJS) is to promote the study of Jaina religion and culture by providing an interdisciplinary platform for academic research, teaching and publication in the field of Jaina Studies
  • For further information see Centre of Jaina Studies
  • This centre was established using a grant from JISC to lead digitisation activities at SOAS. Its aim was to improve access to valuable research and learning material
  • Furer-Haimendorf Collection of images from India and Nepal. The collection is widely recognised as the world's most comprehensive study and visual documentation of tribal cultures in South Asia and the Himalayas in the mid 20th century.
  • For further information see Digital Archives and Special Collections


3. History

  • SOAS library has actively built up research collections relating to South Asia, including publications on and from South Asia, within the fields of languages and cultures, arts and humanities, and law and social sciences
  • The Library has developed and maintained representative collections of publications on and from South Asia supports course reading lists, including multi-disciplinary and diaspora studies

The South Asia collections include the following 6 main countries:

  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka


  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • Maldive Islands

The collections for the Islands off the Indian Ocean are mainly in relation to Anthropology, History and Linguistics.

4. Languages

The Library collects:

  • Non-European language material includes works in Sanskrit and Pali, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Punjabi, Sinhala, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu
  • Publications in South Asian languages across the entire continent however an exception is made where English or other European languages dominate publishing
  • Works of scholarship in South Asian languages
  • For more details see the General Collection Development Policy

5. Classification

The collection is classified using Dewey Decimal Classification option B (where the regions are classified first, followed by the subjects).

By Country:

  • JVA-JH including Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Laccadive and Islands and Maldive Islands

By language:

  • K- KU including Indo-Aryan languages, Dardic languages, Munda languages and other languages
  • A superseded classification scheme using Roman numerals is extant for some publications acquired in the remote past in European languages (e.g. XIII.L) and some South Asian languages (e.g. XIII.1.Miscellaneous) an in-house classification scheme is in use for all South Asian material acquired more recently,

6. Special Collections

  • Coverage  includes Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Islam and Christianity in South Asia; also Buddhism in India, especially on the history of Buddhism and the Buddha
  • Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and on Mahayana Buddhism in the Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan.
  • SOAS has responsibility for South Asian law in the University of London
  • All legislation, court reports and official gazettes are collected for South Asia
  • The following are extensively collected:
    • All India law reports
    • Bombay law reporter
    • Indian law reports
    • Pakistan legal decisions
  • The Library has especially strong collections of films from India, built up to support the growing interest, at both teaching and research level, by the South Asia Department and the Centre for Media and Film Studies
Oral Archives
  • The Library‘s Archives and Special Collections carries some important oral material relating to British India and the Raj
  • This consists of a collection of cassette copies and transcripts of 82 interviews on which the BBC series Plain Tales from the Raj was based
  • The interviews were conducted in both Britain and India between 1972 and 1974.
  • For more information see Archives
Centre for Digital Africa, Asia and the Middle East (CeDAAME) (Now Closed)
  • CeDAAME’s first digitisation project features the photographic archive of Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf (1909-1995). This collection, which includes photographs, cine-film and written materials, is widely recognised as the world's most comprehensive visual documentation of tribal cultures in South Asia and the Himalayas in the mid 20th century. It reflects his fifty years of scholarship and is widely recognised as the world's most comprehensive study of tribal cultures in South Asia and the Himalayas. It is especially valuable because it documents these cultures before many changed rapidly with the advent of external civil administration after the mid-twentieth century.
  • For more information about Centre for Digital Africa, Asia and the Middle East see CeDAAME


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

The collection covers materials on historical and contemporary cross-boundary geo-political areas such as colonial India under the British Raj, East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh ,Kashmir relations with India and Pakistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan border relations, religious and language relations between South Asian nations and diaspora communities.


The collection aims to collect primary and secondary source materials to a teaching level for all courses taught within the South Asia department and Regional & Departmental Centres.


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 South Asia department  are detailed below (based on the Conspectus Level). For details on the Conspectus Level see Collection Development Policy .

8.1 Anthropology & Sociology
  • Social sciences
  • Sociology & anthropology (Interdisciplinary works on society)
  • Social interaction
  • Social Process
  • Social change (Including contact between cultures)
  • Conflict (Including terrorism)
  • Factors affecting social behaviour
  • Population (Including genocide)
  • Movement of people
  • Social groups
  • Age groups
  • Men and women
  • Social class
  • Religious groups
  • Language groups
  • Racial, ethnic, national groups
  • Occupational and miscellaneous groups
  • Culture & institutions
    • Subcultures
    • Political institutions
    • Economic institutions
    • Specific aspects of culture (not provided for elsewhere – education, language, medicine, art)
    • Religious institutions
    • Institutions pertaining to the sexes
    • Marriage and the family (Including kinship)
    • Institutions pertaining to death
  • Communities
    • Planning and development (Including community participation)
    • Movement of people to, from, within communities
    • Structure
    • Specific kinds of communities (Including  rural & urban)
  • Social welfare
  • Customs, etiquette & folklore
    • Costume
    • Personal appearance (Including tattooing)
  • Customs of life cycle & domestic life
  • Death customs
  • General customs
    • Food and drink
  • Etiquette (Manners)
  • Folklore
  • Customs of war & diplomacy
8.2 Art & Archaeology
  • Art general and philosophy of arts
  • Archaeology general (Theories, methods etc)
  • Civilisation (arts)
  • Inscriptions and epigraphy
  • Architecture and gardens
  • Buddhist art
  • Islamic art
  • Hindu art
  • Sculpture
  • Paintings and calligraphy (print making and prints)
    • Mughal painting
  • Ceramic arts
  • Art metalwork
  • Numismatics
  • Lacquer and art wood work
  • Textile arts and costume
  • Rugs and carpets
  • Other arts
8.3 Business & Economics
  • Economic Situation and Conditions
  • Labour Economics
  • Money, banking and finance
  • Land and Property
  • Environmental economics, Natural Resources and Energy
  • Public Finance
  • Industry and business
  • Rural Economics & Agriculture
  • Development and Growth
  • Distribution of income and growth
  • Trade
  • Political Economy
  • Comparative Economics
8.4 Development Studies
  • Aid
  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Environment/Natural Resources
  • Famine & Food Security
  • Globalisation
  • Health Issues [also includes HIV/AIDS]
  • Industrialisation
  • Non-Governmental Organisations
  • Statistical Data
  • Urbanization
8.5 Diaspora, Migration and Ethnic Minorities Studies
  • Migration, Social Science aspects
  • Ethnic minorities
  • Ethnic relations
  • Ethnic groups
  • Immigration & emigration - political aspects
  • Colonisation, Political aspects
  • Refugees
  • Slavery and emancipation
  • Migrant and casual workers
  • Law pertaining to migration
8.6 Finance & Management
  • Public finance
  • Distribution of Income and Wealth
  • Corporate Governance
  • Business and Ethics
  • Corporate Finance
8.7 Gender Studies
  • Men and masculinity
  • Women and feminism
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual orientation, Homosexuality
  • Sexuality
8.8 History
  • Cultural and Social History of Ancient and Medieval India
  • Deccan Sultanates (16th-17th century), and the appropriate links to the Marathas,
    precolonial South India (Vijayanagar, Nayaka states)
  • Early modernity and empire within Asian, Indian Ocean, and global contexts
  • Gender
  • NWFP and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; Pakistan
  • Post-colonialism
  • Precolonial South India (Vijayanagar, Nayaka states)
  • Religions
  • Social class
  • The Deccan up to independence
  • The Bahmani state
  • The Mughal Empire
8.9 Languages
  • Panjabi
  • Hindi
  • Urdu
  • Sanskrit
  • Bengali
  • Gujarati
  • Nepali
8.10 Law
  • Arbitration and Dispute Resolution
  • Civil and Human Rights Law
  • Commercial and Company Law
  • Competition
  • Conflict of laws
  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Contract Law
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Discrimination and Equality
  • Employment and Labour Law
  • Family Law
  • Financial Law
  • Gender
  • Immigration and Nationality
  • Information Technology Law
  • International Law (generally)
  • Justice
  • Law Reform
  • Legal History (generally)
  • Legal systems [incl. Customary, Civil, Common & Islamic etc.]
  • Nationality and Citizenship
  • Philosophy and Theory of Law
  • Trade
  • The Library has national responsibility to collect legal materials (law reports, legislation, official gazettes) for:
    • Bangladesh
    • India
    • Pakistan
    • Sri Lanka (except Roman Dutch Law)
8.11 Linguistics & Literary Criticism
  • Language (Interdisciplinary works on language and literature)
  • Philosophy & theory
  • Language and communication (including semiotics)
  • Psychological principles (including language acquisition)
  • Language education and research
  • Treatment of language with respect to kinds of persons and groups
  • Geographic sub-division of Language
  • Linguistics
  • History and description with respect to kinds of persons
  • Writing systems
  • Etymology
  • Phonology & phonetics
  • Grammar
  • Syntax
  • Stratificational linguistics
  • Systemic linguistics
  • Grammatical analysis
  • Style in Linguistics and language
  • Dialectology & historical (diachronic) linguistics
  • Pidgins and creoles
  • Standard usage & applied linguistics
    • Translation and interpretation
    • Applied linguistics in language teaching & Second language acquisition
    • Language disorders
    • Reading
  • Structured verbal languages other than spoken and written ( including Mathematical linguistics & Sign languages)
8.12 Literatures and Literary Criticism
  • Literature (Belles-lettres) and rhetoric
  • Philosophy and theory
  • Rhetoric and collections
  • History, description, critical appraisal
  • Poetry, History and criticism
  • Drama, History and criticism
  • Fiction, History and criticism
  • History and criticism of essays, speech, letters, humour and satire
  • Literature for and by specific kinds of persons
  • Literature displaying specific features
  • Memoirs in Punjabi, Urdu,
  • Post-colonial literatures
  • Popular literature in Punjabi
  • Progressive and leftist ulama in NWFP and Bengal
  • Tazkiras and biographical dictionaries of literary writers in Punjabi and Urdu
8.13 Media and Film Studies
  • Journalism
  • Sociology of Journalism (with cultural and political aspects)
    • Gender theory and film
  • Mass media and communication
    • Print media
    • Television studies
    • Radio
  • Digital culture and development of technology
  • Global media
  • Film theory
  • Cinema
    • Bollywood
8.14 Music
  • Musicology [ethnomusicology]
  • Philosophy and theory
  • History of music
  • Dance music
  • Folk music
  • Popular music
  • Religious music [sacred music]
  • Religious music: Buddhism
  • Religious music: Christianity
  • Religious music: Hinduism
  • Religious music: Islam
  • Religious music: Judaism
  • Vocal music
  • Songs
  • Dramatic music
  • Musical instruments
  • Instrumental music
  • Instrumental ensembles
8.15 Politics & International Relations
  • The State
  • Structure & Functions of Government
  • Political Ideologies
  • Political Situation & Conditions
  • Systems of Governments & States
  • Relation of the State to Religious Organizations
  • Relation of the State to Labour Movements
  • Relation of the State to Business & Industry
  • Relation of the State to Political Action Groups
  • Relation of the State to Armed Forces
  • Political Economy
  • The Political Process
  • Election Systems & Procedures
  • International Relations
  • Foreign Policy & Specific Topics in International Relations [e.g. foreign aid, international conflict, use of force]
  • Political Violence
  • Energy Policy
8.16 Pure and applied sciences
  • The Library does not acquire material on the pure sciences, except works relating to the history of science.
  • The Library collects material on the applied sciences where such works are of an interdisciplinary nature and cover issues such as economic, social, political and development studies.
  • Works of an Interdisciplinary nature includes economic, political and social aspects relating to subjects such as:
    • Irrigation and water resources
    • Agriculture, forestry and land use
    • Medicine and public health but not scientific and technical aspects:
      • Linguistic works on flora and fauna
      • Works on traditional and indigenous medicine and medicinal plants
      • History of medicine
      • Medical anthropology
      • Social and political aspects of disease and public health
  • Environmental and ecological works that are related to development, politics and economics
  • Works on human ecology
  • Material on intermediate and sustainable technologies related to development issues.
8.17 Religions & Study of Religions
  • Ritual studies
  • Christianity
  • Religious mythology
  • Religious art & iconography
  • Early Buddhism
  • Buddhist Sacred books & scriptures
  • Buddhism (Mahayana)
  • Buddhism (Yogavacara)
  • Jainism (general)
  • Hindu mythology
  • Sanskrit texts, translations & commentaries
  • Islam (general)
  • Sufism
  • Anthropology of religion


9. Major Databases

  • Bibliography of Asian Studies
  • Mapping Asia
  • Manupatra
  • Indiastat
  • Index Islamicus (cross reference tool)
  • The Times of India (1838-2003)

10. Online Subject Guide

For more information see Subject Guide for South Asia

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  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
  • To take into account the shift in global matters and how this plays a role in teaching and academic research. This underpins the demands for research and student-teacher needs for library and information resources in both print and electronic format.
  • South Asia related subject areas to consider for future trends: Security and Religion, Globalization, Corruption and Governance, Forced Migration, Superpower nations, the rise of Islamist extremism and population issues.