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

South Asia resource guide

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

How do I find archives and special collections relating to South Asia?  

The simplest way to find resources relating to South Asia is to search by keyword in the “Any text” field of the archives catalogue.

For a more detailed guide, watch this 15 minute presentation* on how to get the best out of the archives catalogue, or access a written guide here.  

*Video coming soon!*

LSE Connections 

There has been a strong connection between LSE and South Asia, with the co-founders of the School Sidney and Beatrice Webb travelling extensively across Lyallpur, Peshawa and Lahore.

William Beveridge, a past director of the School, was born in Rangpur (now Bangladesh), and a later Director, Dr Indraprasad Gordhanbhai Patel, was the first person of Indian origin to lead a university in the UK.  

A infographic timeline highlighting LSE connections with the Indian Subcontinent

Download our LSE Connections with the Indian Subcontinent timeline [PDF]


LSE Student and Staff Files   

Many students and staff from South Asia have come to study or teach at LSE. Their files can provide interesting information about that person’s time here, such as their application form, details of their studies, occasionally photographs, and more. The records are incomplete. To find out more about past students and their time at LSE: 

Some examples include: the student file of Ambedkar and Vithal Kadam.

Official and Government Publications

LSE Library has a rich collection of official publications such as census records, statistical records, and government publications. To locate these:   

1. Head to LSE Library Search and type a keyword eg, Sri Lanka, and then click Search. Change the drop-down menu to “LSE Library Collections” and click Search again. You will see a list of filters. Under “Location”, tick the Government Publications box, and then Search again. This will find any goverment publications containing the words Sri Lanka in the description.  

2. Alternatively, you can download this Excel spreadsheet containing a list of Government Publications related to South Asia.

Pamphlets and Rare Publications 

The Library has a large collection of mostly political pamphlets, which can be a rich resource of material on South Asia. To locate these:

  • Head to the LSE Library Search and type a keyword eg, Burma, and then click Search. Then, change the drop-down menu to “LSE Library Collections and click Search again. You will see a list of Filters. Under “Location”, tick the Archives Special and Store pamphlets.

The British Left

We hold many collections of British MPs active during the 20th century, offering an interesting insight into the Left's relationship with the Indian subcontinent. 

  • David Steel - Leader of the Liberal Party, his papers contain example letters from his constituents who are concerned about famine affecting the people of Palamau district in India. There is also correspondence from the Indian embassy regarding a report by Amnesty, and Liberal Party policy summaries on Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India in the 1960's and 1970's 
  • Peter Shore – Labour politician whose archives reflect labour policy in the 60’s and 70’s, including files related to Bangladeshi Independence and correspondence with the UK Awami League where Shore "supports the withdrawal of Punjabi troops and the establishment of popular self-government of East Bengal". To read more, see the LSE South Asia Centre’s blog post “Peter Shore and Bangladesh in the LSE Library Archives”  
  • Independent Labour Party – The party published pamphlets that discuss issues of self-government and others in India in the early 20th century. 
  • Fabian Society - a socialist organisation, still in existence, which includes a report from the 1930's regarding the India "problem". There are also papers of some members of the Fabian society e.g. Sir Sydney Olivier, secretary of the West India Royal Commission in 1897, who was sent to Washington in 1898 to assist in reciprocity negotiations on behalf of West Indian colonies. 
George Lansbury telegram
Telegram responding to Gandhi's arrest

British Women and South Asia

The collections include a number of documents related to British women who sought to affect policy and raise the status of women in India. These include: 

  • Eleanor Rathbone – a campaigner active in India in the 1920s, whose archives include correspondence with key activists in India at the time, such as Begum Jehan Ara Shah Nawaz (first female member of the All-India Muslim League Council) and Muthulakshmi Reddi (first female Indian doctor) 
  • Eileen Palmer – a campaigner who worked for the Birth Control International Centre, which included international work in India. Her papers include documents and correspondence critical of M. K. Gandhi’s stance on birth control and correspondence with him, as well as a diary of her travels and work in India 
  • Association for Moral and Social Hygiene (AMSH) – later to be called the Josephine Butler Society, the AMSH conducted international work in India and campaigned against state regulation of prostitution and trafficking of women. The collection Includes records of their work across India including Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). View more about our collections in this area on the prostitution and trafficking web page. 

Trade, Currency and Economics 

  • The Tariff Commission - a body set up in 1903 to examine and report on Chamberlain’s proposals for tariff reform with their effects on British trade and industries. The papers include data and reports regarding free trade and imperialism in the early 20th century. 
  • Lord Farrer - Farrer was a barrister who collected documents related to Indian currency and bimetallism during the period 1860s - 1880s. 
  • Peter Shore - As well as policy documents for Labour mentioned above, Shore's papers also include pamphlets such as "What will British membership of the common market mean for India's trade?" 
Young boys sat against a wall
Photograph from a tour of India and Pakistan, 1952

Partition, Independence and Conflict 

  • Political pamphlets – The Library holds a large collection of political pamphlets produced from political parties and special interest groups in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. 
  • Indira Gandhi – As well as a photograph of the Prime Minister of India, we also have the notes of a journalist who met her for dinner in 1969 and asked for her thoughts on current affairs at the time, including Russia, the commonwealth and social revolution in China. 
  • M. K. Gandhi - There are telegrams from around the world that respond to Gandhi's arrest, photographs of Gandhi, and correspondence between Gandhi and Longden (Conservative MP, who holds an "India file" on Gandhi).
  • League of Nations Union - Active from 1918 - 1971, the LNU often discussed issues of self-rule in India.
  • William Farr -A statistician who research mortality rates and other details about the British army in India in the 19th century.
  • George Lansbury – Leader of the Labour party in the 1930's and sometimes referred to as the "English Gandhi", the Lansbury archives includes labour party proposals regarding India, and correspondence with Gandhi.