A balck and white photo of a group of boys and young men

Traces of South Asia

An ongoing project that seeks to foreground some of the stories in our archives and special collections that speak about South Asia.

By South Asia we mean any items in the Library’s archives and special collections that are about or created by people or organisations that have a relationship to the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Find out more about the Traces of South Asia project and how to get involved.

Resource guides

Women in Sri Lanka walking in a line together through a wooded area


Find out about some of the South Asian material in our collections and how to search for more. 

View our South Asia resource guide

Visitors and research case studies

We love having visitors come to our archives and we learn a lot from them. Here's a list of some the people that have engaged with our South Asia collections.

Michele Benazzo on Peter Shore's archives

A photo of Michele Benazzo

Michele Benazzo is a PhD candidate in International History at the Graduate Institute of Geneva, Switzerland. He came to explore our archives of Peter Shore MP. “The London East End is not only home to the biggest Bangladeshi community in Britain but also to Peter Shore’s political heritage. Indeed, the personal life of the second and the story of the first crisscrossed in the streets of Tower Hamlets. I approached the South Asia collectiosn at LSE Library precisely by following the paper trail left by Bangladeshi activists on the archival shelves of the East End, where Peter Shore’s name peeped out continuously.”

Michele wrote a post about his research for the South Asia @ LSE blog.

A photo of an open leaflet on a desk
Bangladesh Association-Souvenir Brochure-1973-pp.44-47, LSE/SHORE/21/13-British Bangladesh Society

Sanjay Prasad on his father, Dinanath Prasad

Sanjay Prasad, a Senior Executive for an India HQ Technology company based in New York, got in touch to see if we had any records relating to his father Dinanath Prasad, who studied at LSE in the 1950s. We found a fascinating file that included some 80 pages relating to his father’s time at LSE.

My father’s story of a young boy growing up in remote village in Bihar (amongst the most underdeveloped states in India) and working his way to LSE is a reminder of the boundless human spirit. Going from Bihar (a place which still did not have electricity or running water) to Holborn was a big change! 

His going to LSE has changed the lives of an entire generation and the second generation. Seeing his student file has bought my family a deluge of happiness; we can’t wipe our tears enough. Our Mom wants to touch these pages. 

Read more about Sanjay and his father: The mighty leap from Lakhnaura to London: the story of LSE alumnus Dinanath Prasad

A passport photo of Dinanath Prasad


Ambedkar’s birthday celebrations

We were delighted to host so many visitors to the Library to commemorate Ambedkar’s birthday. Siddhartha Datta Ahiwale, one of the visitors leading a Jay Bhim London tour, shared this photograph and writes about his experience with the archives: 

A large group of people lined up in the education room
It was an electrifying moment; there I stood, clutching the copy signed by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar of 'Problem of the Rupee', in the heart of the Centennial year at LSE archives.

Time seemed to dissolve, and I felt an overwhelming presence, as if I were right there with Babasaheb, consumed by humility and gratitude. It felt like a rush of excitement and gratitude all at once! Words fail to capture the depth of emotion shared by every member of PRABUDDHA INTERNATIONAL as we celebrated Jayanti through the transformative Jay Bhim London tour.

Celebrating Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's birth festival at LSE felt personal, as our beloved father studied in this very institute and obtained a Doctorate in Economics with 'The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and Its Solution.

Have you used the South Asia collections at LSE Library? We’d love to hear from you and share your research here!

Online exhibitions

The project begins with a series of online exhibitions.

Ambedkar promotional image for exhibition


'Educate. Agitate. Organise' explores the student file of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, curated in partnership with the LSE South Asia Centre and DecolonisingLSE Collective.

View 'Educate. Agitate. Organise'

Myra Sadd Brown in 1937


Dr Gillian Murphy introduces the Myra Sadd Brown Memorial Library that forms part of The Women’s Library collections.

View 'Women and South Asia'

Portrait of Kadam wearing a suit and tie


Highlights former LSE student Vithal Bayajee Kadam's study at LSE, arranged under a scholarship by Ambedkar.

View 'Vithal Bayajee Kadam: a promising student'


The poster for the Journeys to Independence exhibition


In 2017 LSE Library curated an exhibition in partnership with LSE South Asia Centre called Journeys to Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh”. You can listen to a podcast related to the event and see more on our past exhibitions webpage.

Video talks

The spines of two old books


How do we write academic narratives when the archives are fragmentary, with traces connected by gaps? 


A black and white portrait of Ambedkar


Listen to experts discuss caste, constitution and gender in the light of Ambedkar’s life and work at this event by LSE South Asia Centre, LSE Library, and the DecolonisingLSE Collective.

Watch Ambedkar: Caste, Constitution and Gender

The front cover of the book Ambedkar in London


Watch this talk from LSE Library, LSE Anthropology, and LSE International Inequalities Institute with the editors and authors of the recently published book, Ambedkar in London.

Watch The life of Dr B R Ambedkar in London

Daniel Payne portrait image


Watch LSE Library's Daniel Payne talk about this project. 

Traces of South Asia: Working with Hidden Collections

Blog posts

Shore photographed while sat and talking.


Explore the papers of the late Peter Shore (MP) and his relationship to Bangladesh.

Read Peter Shore & Bangladesh in LSE Library Archives

A portrait photo of Hansa Mehta. Copyright National Portrait Gallery


Explore the life of one of India’s pioneering feminists Hansa Mehta, who blazed a trail for equal rights for Indian women.

Read Hansa Mehta: An Early Indian Feminist

A portrait photo of Zuhra Karim, 1951 from her LSE student file.


Explore the life of Zuhra Karim, one of the great pioneers of women's journalism in Pakistan.  

Read Zuhra Karim: Pioneer of Women's Journalism in Pakistan


Further information

Why the project?

When an institution becomes the custodians of an archive, the archivist is faced with the difficult task of describing these contents in a catalogue so that researchers can discover them. Since describing everything that appears in those documents is not practically possible, the archivist will select and emphasise materials that they consider are of significance, according to a particular frame of reference. By doing so a description always misses something. What is missing might be of importance to somebody else who has a different frame of reference. 

For example, a description of an organisation’s minutes could not describe everything that is discussed in those meetings, and will often describe general subjects discussed, or even just the dates that are covered in those meetings. Yet perhaps there is an unexpected story in those minutes that relates to a researcher’s very specific interests? Therefore when somebody is looking for archives relevant to their topic, the researcher finds themselves needing to pay attention to not just what a description says, but also to what it doesn’t say. This new and ongoing project is an attempt to help with this process.

Why South Asia?

Our archives and special collections focus on modern British political and economic history and the development of social sciences in Britain. Despite the British focus of these collections, there are many items, distributed across many collections, that are relevant to the history of South Asia. Since the Library’s founding, there has been a strong connection with South Asia. William Beveridge, the School’s Director 1919 to 1937, was born in Rangpur (now Bangladesh). Founders of the LSE, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, both travelled extensively across what was then British India. The Library houses official publications from Governments across South Asia, and thousands of students and staff from South Asia have studied our collections and gone on to shape the world. We have chosen South Asia as a starting point.

How do I get involved?

Whilst we have begun this project with some online exhibitions curated by colleagues in the Library, we are particularly interested to hear from the LSE community (both students and staff) who are interested in looking at our archives in these areas from a critical perspective and collaborating with us to grow this page as a resource. If you’re interested or would like to find out more, or if you are working on a project that you think could fit this scope, we would love to hear from you.


Lead photograph at the top of this webpage is from the archives of Neville Sandelson MP, on a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan with Lord Cranborne, SANDELSON/12/21.

Many people have supported us at the beginning of this project for which we are thankful. We would particularly like to thank Dr. Nilanjan Sarkar for his tireless expertise, kindness and support on this and related projects.

Explore online collections