In days of empire, African studies meant studies that might be of use to those who were going to Africa in government service or as missionaries. The School of Oriental Studies was founded in 1917. Renamed the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1938, it is an autonomous college of the University of London.
The school was established principally to train the colonial administrators who ran the British Empire in the languages of Asia and Africa. It received government funding for this purpose.
The SOAS coordinates, stimulates and promotes interdisciplinary study, research, discussion and awareness of African issues within the University of London.
Prior to 1930 the world center for the study of Africa had been the University of Berlin. But with Hitler’s rise to power, many faculty members moved to the University of London.
In 1973-1974 the school had about 220 members of teaching staff, some 1000 students (half of them undergraduates) and about fifty members of library staff.
The School of Oriental and African Studies