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Library books at London Metropolitan Archives

Library books at LMA​

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.

Selected recent acquisitions to the LMA library

The German Orphanage, Dalston 1879-1939 – Patrick Wiegand (published by the Anglo German Family History Society) (20.75 WIE)
A thorough and illustrated history of the German Orphanage which includes useful material on the German community in London and complements LMA’s German church holdings.

The Smoke of London - Energy and Environment in the Early Modern City - William M. Cavert (25.65 CAV)
An intriguing title, this looks at air pollution in the City in the period before the industrial revolution. Early Modern London was powered by coal and the consequences of this are examined in depth - the author looks at challenges in court, the suppression of pollution by the Crown, attempts by doctors to define good air, the consequences for the representations of urban life in London’s poetry and prose, and attempts to escape the City’s fumes. Cavert made use of the City of London’s records for this title, and it may prove of interest for researchers working on London’s environment and the lived experience of its residents.

Prefabs - Elisabeth Blanchet and Sonia Zhuravlyova (Historic England, 2018) (28.9057 BLA)
A slim but attractively illustrated volume on prefab housing, covering the post-war history of this building type in England, with an emphasis on those built in London. Of interest is the way it brings the lived experience to the forefront - including testimony and photographs of individual inhabitants and attempts to save prefab housing from redevelopment. It also includes material relating to modern prefab styles of building in the United Kingdom and Europe. It has a detailed bibliography for readers wanting to undertake further research. Recommended.
The Architecture of Kensal Green Cemetery - Henry Vivian-Neal and James Stevens Curl (Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery, 2017) (25.5 VIV)
A detailed history of the cemetery and the architectural competition to create it, providing histories of the individual buildings and chapels within the cemetery. It includes copies of plans, photographs, and a large architectural glossary. The appendices include transcriptions of key documents relating to the cemetery's formation.
Cows, Cobs and Corner Shops: The Story of London's Welsh Dairies - Megan Hayes (Y Llolfa, 2018)
Did you know that Welsh farmers drove cattle to London and later established dairies and retail businesses in the capital? This hidden history is explored in this lovely volume, full of evocative illustrations and photographs (a parallel text edition in Welsh and English).
Rings Around London: Orbital Motorways and the battle for homes before roads - Wayne Asher
(27.14 ASH)
A generously illustrated hardback title on the various schemes for orbital motorways proposed for London, the parts that were built, such as the Westway, and the attempts made by Londoners to halt such roadbuilding (there is a handy appendix in the back that will tell you if your house would have been demolished had the plans been realised). It comes right up to date with current development plans. Recommended.

The King's Cross Story: 200 years of history in the railway lands - Peter Darley (72.31 DAR)
The railway lands are the bit of King’s Cross north of the stations - where all the current new developments are - but which for a couple of hundred years were a rabbit warren of buildings and businesses that supported/exploited the canal and railways. This compendious volume explores the history of this liminal space, following its development, decline and regeneration. Includes artistic representations of the area (including a rather striking Kathe Strenitz image from LMA’s collections as the cover), with lots of photographs, plans and diagrams.
Faces from the Front: Harold Gillies, the Queen’s Hospital Sidcup and the Origins of Modern Plastic Surgery - Andrew Bamji (62.7 BAM)
There has been a fair bit written about Gillies in recent years, but this lavishly illustrated volume has been compiled by one of the experts in the field. He outlines the story of the hospital and the individuals that created the plastic surgery service but also tells the story of the men whose faces were reconstructed. This is no easy read and images from the case files, many of which are reproduced here, make difficult viewing. There is a chapter on the hospital’s record keeping, as well as an excellent chapter on the public perception of this pioneering work and the post-hospital lives of the men that were treated there. Recommended.

LMA holds a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings from the hospital which is discussed in the book (H02/QM/Y/01/005). It is an excellent source for those interested in the perceptions of disability - the men of Queen’s Hospital were written about very differently to those from other war hospitals.

Histories of Whitechapel - The Survey of London (78.31 WHI)
This booklet was published as a souvenir to mark the concluding stage of the Survey of London’s Histories of Whitechapel project on the occasion of the Whitechapel History Fest 25–27 October 2018. It comprises a compilation of highlights from the Survey’s website, (do have a look if you haven’t already - it is excellent). The booklet is stuffed with some very good photographs and the text includes personal reminiscences of individuals. Worth a look.

28 March 2012
Last Modified:
15 November 2018