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


1. The Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia

The Department of South East Asia is the only department in a UK university which is dedicated to the teaching and research of South East Asia. The Department offers the widest coverage in Europe of research and teaching related to the languages, literatures, and cultures of the principal countries of South East Asia.

The department offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and has 9 FTE academic staff, 59.3 FTE students, including  41 undergraduates, 13.8 taught postgraduates and 4.5 research students.

For more information see:

2. Centres

2.1 The Centre of South East Asian Studies

The Centre of South East Asian Studies encourages and supports research by both staff and students. It promotes joint, interdisciplinary and longer-term research, to which research for postgraduate degrees is often linked. The Centre holds seminars and events exists to promote interdisciplinary study, research and discussion and disseninate a wider awareness of the region

For more information, see Centre of South East Asian Studies

2.2 Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Science

The Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Scienceis designed to be broad in terms of empirical coverage but firmly focused on advancing theoretical (both mainstream and critical) debates in the social sciences.

For more information, see Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Science

2.3 The Centre of Buddhist Studies

The Department of the Study of Religions, in conjunction with the relevant language departments, is admirably equipped to be able to offer a viable and wide-ranging combination of courses on Buddhism and related subjects. The South East Asian language courses relating to Buddhist Studies cover Thai, Burmese, Khmer and Vietnamese.

For more information, see Buddhist Studies at SOAS

2.4 SOAS Language Centre

The Library has collected materials and resources on South East Asian languages and SOAS Language Centre students are automatically members of the Library.

For more information, see Language Centre


3. History

  • The South East Asia section was formed since the foundation of the School in 1916.
  • When SOAS Library was formed, many old materials including those on South East Asia were transferred from University College London and King’s College London.
  • Since its foundation, SOAS Library has actively collected material relating to South East Asia in the arts and humanities and, increasingly over time, in the social sciences.  This included not only Burma/Myanmar, Malaya, Singapore and Borneo (where Britain had a direct interest) but also Siam/Thailand, the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.  The collections also cover Aboriginal Australia, Maori New Zealand and the Pacific Islands)
  • In addition, the Library focuses on regional groupings (ASEAN, APEC, ASEM) and on historical and contemporary cross-boundary geo-political areas such as Indo-China (Annam, Tonkin, Cochin-China); Borneo; Malaya and the Straits Settlements; the Malay Archipelago; the Mekong Valley Region; the Dutch/Netherlands East Indies; and the South China Sea (including the Spratly Islands).

4. Languages

  • The Library has collected South East Asian materilas mainly in English langague, although some selected mateirials in other European languages, such as French works on Indo-China regions and Dutch works on Indonesia, were also added to the collection from time to time, as requested by academic researchers
  • The Library collects material on blingual or trilingual languages of South East Asia, especially dictionaries, grammars and primers as well as works on linguistics
  • The major collections of South East Asian materials in the vernacular languages:
    • Burmese
    • Malay
    • Indonesian
    • Thai
    • Vietnamese
  • Medium sized collections of South East Asian materials in the vernacular languages:
    • Khmer (Cambodian)
    • Lao
    • Javanese
    • Tagalog (Filipino)
  • Small sized collections of South East Asian materials in the vernacular languages:
    • Other Indonesian languages
    • Mon
    • Other Mon-Khmer languages
    • Tibeto-Burman languages
    • Malagasy languages
    • Shan
    • Other Tai languages
  • The South East Asia section also covers materials in the Austronesian and other languages of the Pacific islands
  • 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).

All books are prefixed using the following:

  • by Country
    • Mainland South-East Asia: G - GG (GM and GN for general and unclassified SEA   languages)
    • Maritime South-East Asia: H - HKI
    • Pacific/ Oceanic islands: HM - HZ
  • by Languages
    • Mainland SE Asian languages: GO - GX
    • Maritime SE Asian languages: IB - IBK
    • Oceanic languages: ID - IRB
  • Additional prefixes are used for:
    • Large books ("L")
    • Reference books ("Ref ")
    • Large reference books ("L Ref")

6. Special Collections

Burma: The Burma Campaign Memorial Library (BCML)

This is a comprehensive collection of memoirs, histories, biographies, autobiographies, diaries, personal narratives, essays, letters, fiction and poetry about the war in Burma from 1942 to 1945

The BCML collection also contains historical information on Burma’s neighbouring countries, such as the Indian National Army, the Gurkhas, China-Burma-India Theatre and the Burma Road

Vietnam: The Vietnam War

The Library collects materials on the general histories of the Vietnam war (from Vietnamese, French and US perspectives); on the politics of the War; and accounts by major military figures but does not collect personal accounts of ordinary soldiers, nor histories of individual military units such as divisions, regiments, platoons, companies, &c


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

The collection aims to collect materials to a teaching level for all courses taught within the South East 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 collectiin for the South East 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)
  • 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
  • Agriculture
  • Environment/Natural Resources
  • Famine & Food Security, including food policy and supply
  • Globalisation
  • Health Issues, including public health and disease prevention
  • Industrialisation
  • Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
  • Poverty and poverty reduction
  • Rural and co-operative credit
  • Rural and urban developmenta
  • Statistical Data
  • Traditional education and literacy
  • Urbanization
8.5 Diaspora, Migration & Ethnic Minority 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
  • Food of the South East Asian diaspora
8.6 Gender Studies
  • Men and masculinity
  • Women and feminism
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual orientation, Homosexuality
  • Sexuality
8.7 History
  • Anti-colonial and independence struggles
  • Constitutional and diplomatic history
  • Ethno-history
  • Economic and social histories
  • Historical anthropology
  • Histories of diasporas (particularly the overseas Chinese (Nanyang) in South East Asia)
  • History of medicine
  • History of religions
  • Imperialism, colonialism, nationalism and subaltern studies
  • Local histories
  • Migration
  • Slavery
8.8 Law
  • Arbitration and Dispute Resolution
  • Civil and Human Rights law
  • Commercial and Company law
  • Competition
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional and Administrative law
  • Contract
  • Criminal law and Procedure
  • Current legislation and law reports
  • Customary law (adat)
  • Discrimination and Equality
  • Family law
  • Financial law
  • Employment and Labour law
  • Gender
  • Immigration and Nationality
  • Information Technology
  • Inheritance, Succession, Trusts
  • Intellectual Property
  • International law
  • Justice
  • Law and Development
  • Law Reform
  • Legal History
  • Legal Systems
  • Nationality and Citizenship
  • Philosophy and Theory of Law
  • Trade
  • The Library has national responsibility to collect legal material (law reports, legislation, official gazettes) for specific regions/countries of South East Asia. They include:
    • Burma
    • Malaysia (vernacular language materials)
    • Pacific Ocean Islands
    • Singapore
8.9 Linguistics & Language Studies
  • 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)
8.10 Literatures & Literary criticism
  • Fiction
  • Poetry
  • Drama
  • Selection of works, which are written in the languages of South East Asia, including South East Asian literatures originally written in English (primarily from Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines)
  • Other literary genres
  • Translations into English of works in the languages of South East Asia.
8.11 Media & Film Studies
  • Journalism
  • Sociology of Journalism (with cultural and political aspects)
  • Mass media and communication
    • Print media
    • Television studies
    • Radio
  • Digital culture and development of technology
  • Global media
  • Film theory
    • Film scripts
    • Censorship
  • Cinema, motion pictures
    • DVD (particularly Thai, Indonesia, Malaysian and Singaporean film) with publications on films and the film industry
  • Stage theatre
  • Dance
8.12 Music
  • Musicology [ethnomusicology]
  • Philosophy and theory
  • Dance music
  • Folk music
    • wayang
    • shadow plays
    • gamelan music
  • Popular music
  • Religious music [sacred music]
  • Religious music : Buddhism
  • Religious music : Hinduism
  • Vocal Music
  • Songs
  • Dramatic music
  • Musical instruments
  • Instrumental music
  • Instrumental ensembles
8.13 Politics & International Relations
  • The State
  • Comparative Government
  • Systems of Governments and States
  • Political Situation  and Conditions
  • Relation of the State to Religious Organisations
  • Relation of the State to Labour Movements
  • Relation of the State to Business and Industry
  • Relation of the State to Political Action Groups
  • Relation of the State to Armed Forces
  • Civil and Political Rights
  • The Political Process
  • Political Parties
  • Election systems and Procedures
  • Migration
  • Colonization
  • International Relations
  • Foreign Policy & Specific Topics in International Relations [e.g. foreign aid, international conflict, use of force]
  • Political Economy
  • Political Violence
  • Energy Policy
8.14 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.
8.15 Religions & Study of Religions
  • Animism
  • Buddhism
  • Christianity
  • Confucianism
  • Folk beliefs
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Shamanism
  • Material covers broader concepts relating to the study of religions, such as
    • Sociology and anthropology of religion;
    • Religion and politics;
    • Relationships between the different religious traditions within South East Asia.
  • The Library acquires material on religious and customary law (adat). This includes detailed coverage of Islamic law from a South East Asian perspective.


9. Electronic Resources

Major Databases
  • Bibliography of Asian Studies
  • Cambridge Books Online
  • Cambridge Journals Online
  • Dawsonera
  • EBSCOHost
  • Ethos (Free acess registration via British Library)
  • Index to Theses
  • InformaWorld
  • IngentaConnect
  • International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS)
  • ISI Web of Science / Knowledge (includes Arts and Humanities Citation Index, and Social Science Citation Index)
  • Oxford Journals Online
  • Oxford Reference Online
  • Project MUSE
  • Sage Journals Online
  • WorldCat
  • Zetoc

10. Online Subject Guide

For more information and online resources see the Subject guide for South East Asia

For subject specific databases see Subject Statements

For other databases SOAS subscribes to see A-Z database 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  seeks to retain one print copy of selected scholarly titles and also 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