Archives & Special Collections, SOAS, University of London

Archives & Special Collections, SOAS, University of London

Main SOAS Building, opposite the Brunei Gallery, Thornhaugh Street, nr Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Tel: +44(0)20 7898 4180
Digital photography is permitted subject to minor restrictions and form-filling.

All users of the SOAS Archives & Special Collections require a library card. Details of the information and photograph required for this should be checked on the website before arriving. Most categories of users will need a letter of introduction and proof of identity and address.

The collections of archives, manuscripts and rare books are available in the Special Collections Reading Room, located on level F of the Library. The Special Collections Reading Room is usually open at the following times:

Monday and Tuesday: 9am-5pm
Wednesday: closed
Thursday and Friday: 9am-5pm
Saturday, Sunday: closed

It is additionally closed:

  • Bank Holidays
  • Christmas and Easter SOAS closure days
  • SOAS Welcome Week (dates tbc)

Collections include manuscripts, photographs, maps, audio-visual material and rare books relating to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and beyond. Broadly speaking, its collections reflect the British interaction with Africa and Asia over the last 250 years, and include archives of mission societies, NGOs and campaign groups and business organisations, as well as the papers of individuals, including diplomats, campaigners, and academics.

SOAS holds the largest collection of Christian missionary archives in the UK and also personal papers of many individual missionaries. These collections span the 18th to 20th centuries and include a wealth of primary source material, such as correspondence, reports, minutes, journals, photographs and films.

Key missionary collections at SOAS are:

  • London Missionary Society collection
  • Methodist Missionary Society collection
  • Presbyterian Church of English Foreign Missions Committee collection
  • China Inland Mission collection
  • Missionary Library collections

There is an a to Z listing of all SOAS collections which provides helpful thumbnail sketches of these. In addition, there is also a separate listing with more detailed information about key collections. These provide downloadable and very detailed guides to the collections concerned.

There is a searchable catalogue permitting quite simple but useful searches for materials, which yields a list of relevant material by using keyword searches. This then provides access to quite a detailed description of particular collections via archive reference numbers (provided in the first listing). However, inventories are available only in the Reading Room.

The Reading Room provides bound copies of inventories and other finding aids for all key collections, together with ancillary books and other items related to these.

The information provided by the online resources backed where needed by email contact will enable detailed preparation before any planned visit.

Last updated: 1 January 2018