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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 library: update on card catalogue conversion

The library is an important part of LMA’s resources and for researching London’s history, and supports our archive collections. Details of books catalogued before 1995 are held on a card catalogue only accessible in LMA’s Information Area. Anything catalogued since 1995 is on the City of London’s online library catalogue. Some of us may still enjoy flicking through old card catalogues, but we felt it really was time to modernise the rest of our library catalogue. Jeff Gerhardt tells more:

The library contains around 100,000 volumes relating to the history of London and we’re continuously adding new stock. Only about 10% of the library is on open access, so if you’re looking for a book on London’s history, you’ll want to search the catalogues. The good news is that last year Nick Slough from Guildhall Library’s Information Services Section (ISS) began inputting our card catalogue into electronic format. So far 3863 cards have been converted relating to London’s economic history. Examples of subjects now available online include:

  • Census/population statistics
  • Public finance
  • Banks and finance
  • Shipping and overseas trade
  • London’s industries
  • Livery Companies 
  • Markets and businesses
  • Trade Unions, strikes and working conditions

ISS have recently begun work on converting publications relating to social life, the arts, literature, natural history, science and sport. These include:

  • Social life and recreation
  • Marriage, women and LGBT life
  • Customs, ceremonies and celebrations
  • Inns, clubs and coffee houses
  • Design, furniture and architecture
  • Theatre, dance music and cinema
  • Painting, sculpture, and photography

In the not so distant future, all our publications will be available via the City of London’s online library catalogue

Please note that LMA is a reference only library. 

LMA staff recommend more gems from the library:

Title: Researching London’s Houses
Author: Colin Thom 
Published by: Historical Publications
When: 2005
Where to find it: In the quick reference section of the Library under LMA 45.62/THO, although often at the Enquiry Desk being used!
Why: A clear, concise and unfailingly helpful resource, Thom makes searching house history straightforward. He makes sense of complex sources and gives practical advice, allowing researchers to identify the sources that are available and the type of information they can glean from them. This book is heavily used by the Public Services team in our enquiry work to provide inspiration, to jog our memories, or when all else fails and we want to make sure we’ve covered everything.

Title: Some examples of English handwriting: from Essex official ecclesiastical estate and family archives of the 12th to the 17th century
Author: Hilda Grieve
Published by: Essex County Council, Chelmsford
When: 1949
Where to find it: LMA 60.81 (GRI)
Why: If you have just embarked on a palaeography course and you are looking for tips for deciphering all kinds of writing then look no further. This book provides a wide selection of handwriting with transcripts and translation as exercises in reading. It even includes a brief note on the most usual methods of abbreviation, quoting some examples and reference.

Title: Space Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-1975
Author: Elain Harwood
Published by: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (in association with Historic England)
When: 2015
Where to find it: LMA 45.606
Why: The immense importance of this book to LMA is swiftly revealed in the opening chapter where Elain Harwood tells us that by the early 1950s the London County Council (LCC) Architects Department was one of the largest and most important architects offices in the world. With 360 architects on its payroll, together with quantity surveyors, designers, model-makers, artists and others “its work necessarily dominates any account of English post-war architecture”. Despite the national scope of the work, striking examples of the LCC’s work appear in almost every chapter of Elain Harwood’s comprehensive and insightful 700 page survey: Housing, Transport, Schools, Public Buildings, Leisure and Culture. As one member of the LCC Architect’s Dept. later recalled: “every day had something exciting and new in it”. The vast body of reports, minutes, memoranda, plans, drawings, photographs and published works arising from this creative hothouse are now cared for at LMA.  Space Hope and Brutalism allows the range and importance of this London public sector work to be understood in the context of national developments, and to be assessed as a whole. The text is supported by a very generous quota of illustrations - but few of them are sourced from LMA. A deliberate decision was clearly made to use mostly new colour on-site photography, and in doing so to disprove the commonly held belief that buildings of the period 1945-75 will necessarily offer only tarnished idealism, damp stained concrete or greyness.

For further information, see our Top Tip on using the LMA Library.

28 March 2012
Last Modified:
29 September 2017