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We expect our blend of online, zero-contact and in-person COVID-secure library services to continue through the national lockdown, with minor local adjustments where operationally essential.

Cambridge University Library


Picture credit: Detail from Reminiscences of Bombay, artist M.F. Pithawalla (RCMS 89_70)


Welcome to the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Library, celebrating 150 years of collecting (1868-2018)

- a treasure-trove of information, pictorial and written, print and manuscript, on the Commonwealth and Britain's former colonial territories, comprising over 300,000 printed items, over 800 archival collections (including manuscript diaries, correspondence, pictures, artefacts, cine films, scrapbooks and newspaper cuttings) and over 120,000 photographs. 

View our Anniversary Treasures Exhibition and explore our  new digital collection: RCS 150 which celebrates the Society's 150th anniversary and the acquisition of the RCS Library by Cambridge University Library 25 years ago.

First-time users of the collection are recommended to refer to the Induction notes linked from the left-hand column of this page, and the subject guides (Collections link) available for some archives. These currently include the following topics, and more: cine films, military archives, mission archives, nursing archives, official publications, photographic panoramas, photograph collections, Polar archives and West Indian collections.

Additional resources for the study of the Commonwealth and Britain's former colonial territories are suggested in the Useful links pages, indexed in the left-hand menu.

The RCS Library today comprises the collections amassed by the Colonial Society, and its successors the Royal Colonial Institute, Royal Empire Society and Royal Commonwealth Society, between its foundation in 1868 and 1993 when it was acquired by Cambridge University Library.  Additional archives and photograph collections are regularly acquired by donation, and projects are under-way to make these accessible to the public. Follow the Library's Special Collections blog (category: Royal Commonwealth Society) to keep abreast of these developments, or follow links on our Projects and exhibitions pages on the left-hand menu.

For more information on the history of the RCS Library, please see our brief guide.

For more detailed information on our catalogues, please refer to our Catalogue guide (in the left-hand menu).


Contact us

Please address enquiries about RCS holdings to:

Rachel Rowe, Smuts Librarian for South Asian and Commonwealth Studies
Cambridge University Library
West Road


Please note the Librarian is part-time and usually works at the University Library on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Rachel may be reached by phone on Wednesdays and Thursdays on +44(0)1223 333146, but it is preferable to email details of your enquiry.

If your enquiry concerns a valuation, please note that we are unable to provide valuations.  We recommend you contact a specialist antiquarian bookseller or auction house.