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Date updated: 24/07/2023

The LMA library comprises over 100,000 books covering all aspects of the history and development of the Greater London area. The library aims to help anyone interested in the metropolis or needing facts about specific legislation, buildings, events or people in London. The library is open to everyone without charge for reference only. Only a small proportion of the library holdings are on open access in the Information Area, and you will need a History card to order other items from the collection.

London Government

The holdings of the library are particularly strong in the history of the administration of London. There are sets of printed and indexed minutes for the Greater London Council and the Inner London Education Authority and earlier London-wide authorities, together with a  large series of publications which cover a range of subjects from timetables for workmen’s trains to GLC anti-racist housing policies. There are printed minutes and reports from many London borough councils and their predecessors, and a series of statistical returns for the whole of London from the nineteenth century onwards. The library has good holdings of Acts of Parliament, including local acts and private acts relating to London, and of parliamentary papers.

Local history

In addition to extensive sections on general London history and topography, the library has a wide range of holdings covering the history of individual areas, streets and buildings in London. These include a large number of fine illustrated eighteenth and nineteenth century books.

Family history

A wide range of books covering all aspects of research into your family history are available. Street directories, registers and yearbooks can offer an insight into where ancestors lived and what they might have been doing, as well as holding holds many publications from family history societies and other organisations.

Social history

Books cover many aspects of London life, from public transport to gentlemen’s clubs. The library covers services administrated by the GLC and its predecessors, such as education and parks, and by other major London institutions like hospitals, charities and theatres.


The library holds a large range of journals and periodicals covering a multitude of subjects. It also keeps back numbers of periodicals including the 'Illustrated London News' and 'The Builder'.

LMA Book Group

If you are interested in writing which supports archive research, LMA Book Group meets monthly to explore a range of London writing, with a remit covering fiction and non-fiction for all periods in London's history. Further details may be found on LMA’s Eventbrite page.

New Books on open access in LMA’s Information Area

  1. Otto Saumarez Smith – Boom Cities: Architect-Planners and the Politics of Radical Urban Renewal in 1960s Britain (28.0 SAU)

    Saumurez Smith takes as his starting point the short-lived but deep-rooted consensus at the start of the 1960s that cities needed to be remade for a changing modern Britain. He explores the planning philosophy and the political and legislative background that made this possible across the UK and the optimistic moment in which architects and planners sought to improve British cities. Saumurez Smith ranges across a number of locations – Blackburn, Portsmouth, Leicester, Chester to name a few and makes numerous references to London, in particular the LCC’s plans for new towns.

  2. Anna Arnone and Benjamin Zephaniah – Sound Reasoning (44.8 ARN)

    A portrait of UK sound systems and the faces of the UK reggae scene, as documented by Arnone in the 1980s. Has a great introduction by Benjamin Zephaniah about the importance of this part of Black British music culture, and includes numerous snippets about performers and those behind the scenes as well as the locations associated with it – interestingly, the book makes a determined effort to represent the women in the scene.

  3. Mireille Galinou – London’s South Bank: The History (67.2 GAL)

    Lavishly and copiously illustrated history of the South Bank as an entity (so not just the South Bank in the LCC sense). Takes the South Bank of the river section by section and then chronologically, and as you might expect from Galinou’s art history background, makes lots of references to art and artists associated with the area. There’s an intriguing element to the book which Galinou describes as 'The Quest' which if I understand correctly is her attempt to find the soul of London in the history of the South Bank.

  4. Catalan, Hedge and Ridge (eds) – HIV in the UK: Voices from the Epidemic (26.31 CAT)

    This book aims to centre the lived experience of successive periods of the epidemic from 1981 onwards through interviews with key individuals in terms of the care and support offered to people with HIV and those involved in preventative work. It also focuses on the lessons that can be learnt and the legacy of the epidemic, including changing social attitudes to HIV, sexuality as well as attitudes towards death and dying. Extracts from the interviews are published as part of the narrative, and these are particularly striking, both in reflecting the horror of the early period but also the hope that came with improved drug regimes.

  5. Bond, Bob – Gauges Galore: The many and various railways of the Hampton and Kempton Waterworks (27.337 BON, in store)

    While this is a publication of niche interest, I would suggest Bond has done a fine job of describing the panoply of railway gauges that have existed at this particular waterworks, with lots of illustrations, maps and technical drawings. Bond has drawn extensively from our railway archives for this book, and it has lots to offer the railway enthusiast.

  6. Stuttard, John (ed) The City of London Sheriffs’ Society (16.43 STU)

    I must admit I had never heard of the City of London Sheriffs’ Society until I saw this book. The Society was formed in 1953 to promote the 'dignity of the Shrievalty' and to further the Shrievalty however necessary. It gives a history of the Society and then biographies (and lots of photographs) of its members, who by the nature of the society are a fairly select bunch.
  1. The ballad-singer in Georgian and Victorian London, Oskar Cox Jensen (44.8 JEN)

    [Ballad-singers] were routinely disparaged and persecuted, living on the margins, yet playing a central part in the social, cultural, and political life of the nation. This history spans the Georgian heyday and Victorian decline of those who sang in the city streets in order to sell printed songs. Focusing on the people who plied this musical trade, [Jensen] interrogates their craft and their repertoire, the challenges they faced and the great changes in which they were caught up. Complemented by recordings of 62 songs, which can be downloaded at Cambridge University Press.

  2. The bombing of London 1940-41: the Blitz and its impact on the capital, John Cohen (62.71 COH)

    …describes how the Blitz progressed from the daylight attacks of the summer of 1940 through to the devastating raids of the spring of 1941, and looks in detail at what happened in the metropolis in those years.

  3. The social world of the school: education and community in interwar London, Hester Barron (22.04 BAR)

    What were schools for, why did they matter and what do they tell us about society? In this compelling account, the lived experience of the classroom illuminates the social history of interwar Britain. Drawing on a rich array of archival and autobiographical sources, it captures the individual moments that made up the minutiae of classroom life. Focusing on elementary schools ion London – where global, imperial and national identities competed with local and family interest – it creates a mosaic of the educational experience across the capital between the wars. Makes extensive use of LCC sources.

  4. Style in my DNA, Lorna Holder (35.18 HOL)

    Lorna’s continuous documentation of fashion trends from the 1940s to the present day takes us on a journey through time to observe the evolution of fashion within the British Caribbean community. Beautifully illustrated, and complements the archive collection which Lorna has deposited with us (archive reference: LMA/4660).
  1. Family Tree, May 2023 (Information Area; back-issues not kept)

    Sourcing images to illustrate the past; ‘many names, one man’ – the value of digging deeper; what childhood books did our ancestors read; unreliable surnames; how to tackle genealogy in the middle ages; getting started with DNA

  2. HA News, published by the Historical Association, spring 2023 (library store, 66.0 HIS)

    Medlicott Medal; eight extraordinary women in Balkan history; the Dawson Lecture 2023; spotlight on local history

  3. London Landscapes, no 63, Spring 2023 (library store, 48.1 LON)

    What makes a great park?

  4. The PhotoHistorian, no 195, Spring 2023 (library store, 45.8 PHO)

    Reconfiguring amateurism – hospital photographic clubs and medical photography (includes some graphic and potentially upsetting images); Mrs Middleton – the remarkable lady; Underwood & Underwood – the 1902 coronation

  5. Print Quarterly, vol 40, no 1, March 2023 (library store, 45.14)

    Johan Neudorffer the Elder and the earliest German recipe for copper etching; Luca Ciamberlano’s Vision of St Teresa of Avila and its reflections in the work of Rubens and Bernini; Juan Francisco Rosa – engraver to the elite in eighteenth-century Lima; Alfredo Zalce’s illustrations for El sombereron (1946)

  6. Museums Journal, vol 123, no 2, Mar/Apr 2023 (library store, 06.6 MUS)

    Collecting and displaying the objects and ephemera of resistance; the ‘Museums Change Lives’ awards; Staffin Dinosaur Museum, Skye; making a ruckus – Birmingham Museums Trust; a visit to Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury; treasures of the recently redeveloped Leighton House Museum, Holland Park 
  1. Religious Vitality in Victorian London – W.M. Jacob (50.0 JAC)

    This broad-ranging study explores the complexity of Victorian London and the place of religion within Victorian society. Jacob challenges assumptions about the place of religion in Victorian London and examines the renewal of faith communities in the Anglican church and in Judaism, the growth of the Salvation Army, Mormons and the Victorians’ interests in spiritualism and the occult as well as the role of philanthropy. Jacob looks at the way this religiosity was influenced by urbanisation, population growth and industrialisation and how in turn these changes led to the development of the twentieth-century City. This is an ambitious work which has the potential to be of interest to researchers from numerous disciplines.
  2. Settlers – Journeys through the food, faith and culture of Black African London – Jimi Famurewa (20.171 FAM)

    Famurewa seeks to draw attention to what he sees as an unexamined element of Black British history by focusing on the Black African community who have largely come to Britain since the 1980s and who are now the third largest ethnic group in London. He seeks to provide “an emotionally accurate portrait rather than a fastidious census” and does this by exploring Black African food culture, religious experience and neighbourhoods. This is an accessible and compellingly written account which covers a wide range of perspectives. Famurewa draws attention to the tensions between White and Black communities and those between Afro-Caribbean and Black African communities, but also the specific way these cultures mix in London, and he investigates social issues such as fostering, relationships with the police and education.

  3. Ingenious Trade – Women and Work in Seventeenth-Century – Laura Gowing (37.22)

    Gowing is well known for her work on women and marriage and in her new book she looks at the lives of young women who came to London as apprentices in the seventeenth century. She uses the records of the City Corporation, particularly those of the Mayor’s Court (CLA/024), and those of certain livery companies, to reconstruct the negotiations that female apprentices had with the City authorities and explores the nature of their training, the extent and complexity of their contracts, their disputes and women’s roles as mistresses. Together with the recent work of Amy Erickson this study is a valuable contribution to the study of women’s work in the City.
  4. Birkbeck – 200 years of Radical Learning for Working People – Joanna Bourke (22.2 BIR)

    Arguably the most famous adult education college in London, Birkbeck is currently celebrating its 200th birthday. Established as the London Mechanics Institution at a time when a third of all men and half of all women could not read or write, the organisation was founded in a climate where the establishment was particularly hostile to the education of working people and the destabilising effect that this might have on society. Bourke’s in-depth and rigorous study traces the history of Birkbeck to reflect on life and culture in London over the past two hundred years, asking questions concerning the value of education, and exploring the lives of its students and staff. While Bourke uses the archives at Birkbeck for the bulk of this work, there are lots of connections with collections at London Metropolitan Archives that relate to adult and further education.
  5. A History of Fish and Fisheries of the River Thames by David J Solomon (35.2, in library store)

    This book describes the history of fish in the Thames and the development of fisheries to catch them for food and sport, extensively illustrated with prints and photographs. As you would imagine, it focuses on the western reaches of the Thames and the development of angling, but it does explore attempts to re-introduce salmon to the river, the fishery at London Bridge and the fishing of eels. While rather a niche title, the author is an angler and fishery scientist who synthesises the cultural and natural history of fishing to good effect.
    1. Genealogists’ Magazine, Dec 2022 (61.2 SOC)

      SOG Digital Collection – wills, abstracts and other documents; Folvilles of Ashby Folville; Agricultural hiring fairs in England; Little Italy; The Separate System of Prison Discipline at Wandsworth and Elsewhere; Genealogy brick walls before 1837

    2. Family Tree, Jan 2023 (IA, back copies not kept)

      Forgotten Docklands; Royal ancestry; Tracing gentleman’s servants; York Fever Hospital; Spotlight on AGRA

    3. London Topographical Society Newsletter, Nov 2022 (60.9 LTS)

      Introducing Nicholas Barbon, 17c speculator and builder; new schemes for the Strand; Westminster topography; London maps digitally redrawn (Ogilby and Morgan, Rocque and Horwood); London’s medical statues.

    4. The Historian, Autumn 2022 (66.0 HIS)

      Women in power special: Elizabeth I, less than a woman?; Two besieged noblewomen in medieval Scotland; Taj ul-Akan Safitatuddin Syah – a trailblazing Islamic queen; Joanna the Mad, patriarchy and a charge of insanity; Tudor queens – power, identity and gender; London’s women statues.

    5. The Local Historian, October 2022 (60.0 BRI)

      Essex Sessions of the Peace and the Peasants Revolt; West Indian wealth and the English country Elite – the Morants of Brockenhurst; Wayfarers in 17C Devon; Slips, trips and tumbles in public places: accidental falls in Wolverhampton 1850-1910; Cornish male voice choirs 1939-1945; Commerical world of Basingstoke draper Thomas Burberry; Press coverage of Trawsfynydd power station’s construction 1955-1965.

New Books on open access in LMA’s Information Area

  1. The Mercenary River – Private Greed, Public Good: A History of London’s Water by Nick Higham (24.21 HIG)

    A very readable history of London’s water supply, aimed at the general reader but including original research from records at held at LMA (we hold the records of all eight of London’s water companies) by this former BBC journalist. A good place to start for an overview of this subject, which can be dauntingly complex and a useful addition to our library of material on water.

  2. Vagabonds – Life on the Streets of Nineteenth-Century London by Oskar Jenson (40.2)

    A lively history of London’s poor between 1780-1870 which centres the voices of individuals in the narrative. Jenson is interested in the people who plied their trade on London’s streets – hawkers, beggars, sex workers, performers – how they ended up in that situation and what their trades tell us about the economic/social realities of the time; the author makes an attempt to consider the agency of these individuals. A surprisingly accessible read, with lots of links to LMA’s collections, not least graphic and visual collections relating to ‘Cries of London’ and prints of city streets etc.

New Books on open access in LMA’s Information Area

  1. Bollardology by Cathy Ross (27.15 ROS)

    A delightful history and gazetteer of bollards in the City of London. What do they mean? How old are they? What do they say about the Square Mile today? A fantastic book.

  2. The Council House by Jack Young (28.71 YOU)

    A visual guide to 68 of London’s most iconic housing estates (iconic here in terms of architectural importance, I would suggest). Super photography even in a small format, this is a reminder of the creativity of architects and town planners in London’s post-war period.

  3. A Mighty Capital Under Threat: The Environmental History of London 1800-2000 edited by Bill Luckin and Peter Thorsheim (25.061 LUC)

    This collection of essays shows how the nineteenth century’s largest city dealt with new environmental threats from smoke, waste, disease and polluted water. They look at early environmental movements, green space and how areas of rural Middlesex rapidly became urban (Hackney being a case study here).

  4. The Nine Lives of John Ogilby: Britain’s Master Map Maker and His Secrets by Alan Ereira (65.2 ERE)

    The Ogilby and Morgan Map of London is one that many of us refer to in the course of our work, but did you know Ogilby was a poet, soldier, sea captain, shipwreck survivor, barrister and the royal cosmographer? This biography pays close attention to the creation of Britannia, Ogilby’s pioneering and political road atlas of Britain.

  5. In the Shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral: The Churchyard the Shaped London by Margaret Willes (56.5 WIL)

    Willes explores the history of St Paul’s Churchyard, tracing the history of the neighbourhood immediately around the Cathedral that was a theatre for debate and protest, knowledge and gossip. She covers the religious debates at St Paul’s Cross, the bookshops and theatre, the luxury trades that gathered there after the Great Fire and the churchyard’s increasing importance in the English literary world, and how this vibrant community disappeared.