Special Collections, SOAS Library makes available the Library's collection of archives, manuscripts, and rare books relating to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and beyond.

Archive collections

Our archive collections include original unpublished primary sources, including correspondence, minutes, diaries, reports, photographs, slides, maps, plans, posters, leaflets, drawings, engravings, film footage, and sound recordings created or collected together by:

The global nature of colonial, missionary, and NGO activity invariably means our collections also reflect a wider geographical coverage than Africa, Asia and the Middle East, extending to Europe, the Americas and Caribbean, and Australasia and Oceania.

Our collections represent unique research potential for advancing knowledge and understanding of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Our archival sources document the British interaction with these regions, tracing the transition from the colonial world to the globalised present. They also contain some of the earliest surviving written and visual accounts of languages, cultures and narratives from across the world.

Manuscript collections

We also hold an internationally important resource of several thousand unpublished manuscripts in over 100 different languages, with significant holdings in Arabic, Persian, Swahili, South, South-East & East Asian languages.

Rare book collections

We provide access to SOAS Library’s collection of rare books and periodicals relating to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, dating back to the 15th century

Research, teaching and learning

Every year around 3,000 people visit Special Collections at SOAS Library to undertake primary research using our unique collections in a wide-range of academic disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, development studies, economic history, gender studies, geography, politics, mission studies, migration and diaspora studies, cultural, literary and postcolonial studies, languages and linguistics.

Our collections have been used by course-leaders to support and enhance group teaching and learning through hands-on and source-led sessions. A diverse range of private researchers also consult our collections, which act as a wider educational and cultural resource, supporting lifelong learning and helping individuals explore topics including family histories and community memory.

Divan exemplars (Special Collections)

Featured image

This page's featured image is of a book of Persian divan exemplars housed in SOAS Special Collections.

Learn more about this object online at SOAS Digital Collections