Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library


Find out about social sciences at the British Library including collections, events and research. This blog includes contributions from curators and guest posts by academics, students and practitioners. Read more

22 April 2024

Researching social work in the Social Sciences Reading Room.

This post, written by Social Sciences Subject Librarian, Ben Hadley, describes printed resources relevant to social work that are available to readers in the Social Sciences Reading Room, as well as publications that can be ordered up from basement storage for use in the reading rooms.  The Library's digital collections are not currently available whilst systems are restored following the cyber attack in October 2023.   Information about the restoration of services can be found on the British Library Knowledge Matters blog, and details of opening hours and current services are on the Library's website.


Mod soc thought shelf

Reference materials relevant to social work in the OPL section on the shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room. 


Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change. Research themes encompass a range of interdisciplinary approaches including law, philosophy, politics, public policy, psychology and social anthropology. 


The recent cyber-attack has had a severe impact on our digital collections. Unfortunately we currently cannot provide access to abstracting databases and e-resources via our reading room PCs.  Similarly, we are not able to provide access to books and journals published in the UK or in Ireland that have been deposited with the Library in electronic format rather than in print.  This affects many British (and also Irish) books published since 2013 as roughly half of the Library's intake from these countries is received in digital format.


However, readers can still order journals and printed books to use in our study spaces, and social work dictionaries, encyclopedias and reference sources on related topics are available on the open shelves. Social work research demands a multi-disciplinary approach, and we can still provide access to a broad spectrum of topics from a wide range of subject areas. Our research monographs cover a wide field of subject disciplines and many are held in the Social Sciences Reading Room. 


Here are just a few examples of books are available to order and use in the reading rooms, that can be found in our catalogue: 


Social Policy for Social Work, Lorraine Green and Karen Clark 

Soc Policy for Soc Work

Front cover of Social policy for social work, by Lorraine Green and Karen Clarke. Cambridge; Polity Press, 2016. British Library shelfmark YC.2016.b.604


This book examines the shifts in the dominant political ideology that have affected the nature of welfare provision and the balance of responsibilities between the family, the voluntary sector, the market and the state. It explains how these developments impact social workers and service users. 

It traces the origins of state welfare from the Elizabethan Poor Laws to the late 1800s. It then examines each stage of welfare provision from the post-war consensus through to the Coalition government 2010 – 2015.     British Library shelfmark YC.2016.b.604 


Mind, state and society: social history of psychiatry and mental health in Britain 1960 – 2010, edited by George Ikkos and Nick Bouras.

Mind state society

Cover image of Mind, state and society: social history of psychiatry and mental health in Britain 1960–2010, edited by George Ikkos and Nick Bouras. Cambridge University Press, 2021.  Shelfmark YC.2022.a.5666.


This book examines the reforms in psychiatry and mental health services in Britain. It features contributions from leading academics, policymakers, mental health clinicians, service users and carers. It offers a rich and integrated picture of mental health, covering experiences from children to older people; employment to homelessness; women to LGBTQ+; refugees to black and minority ethnic groups; and faith communities and the military. 

British Library shelfmark YC.2022.a.5666 


Child Welfare and Social Action in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Jon Lawrence and Pat Starkey.  Liverpool University Press, 2001

This collection of essays addresses child migration, ‘delinquency’, and the physical and psychological traumas of children in care. It offers an international perspective on these issues and each case study provides a thorough analysis within its historical context. Each of the themes introduced in this study can be explored in more detail in our collections. 

British Library shelfmark YC.2006.a.15461 


What is Social Work: Contexts and Perspectives, Nigel Horner. London; Learning Matters, 2012

This book is primarily aimed at social work students in their first year of study. It examines the major influences that shaped the welfare systems towards the end of the nineteenth century, including religious movements, philanthropy, social reform, labour movements and government policy. 


It presents an overview of child welfare policy and practice and introduces legal frameworks for working with children and families. It also examines the changing context of the profession in light of legislative changes from the 1908 Children Act which led to the introduction of juvenile courts, to the Children Act 2004 which affirmed a commitment to assuring high quality childcare for all.  

British Library shelfmark SPIS 361.30941 


In addition this book also introduces a professional capabilities framework that informs all social work practice. These themes can be explored further in studies held in the reading room under subject heading SPIS 361.01. A member of staff can help you to find these titles.  


Gender diversity, recognition and citizenship: towards a politics of difference, Sally Hines. Basingstoke; Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.


Gender diversity

Gender diversity, recognition and citizenship: towards a politics of difference, by Sally Hines. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. British Library shelfmark SPIS 306.768 

This book explores the significance of the UK Gender Recognition Act (GRA) and considers broader social, cultural, legal political shifts that have resulted. This book considers the politics of identity and how lived experience has been impacted by these changes. The GRA is also contextualised within human rights discourse and law.  

British Library shelfmark SPIS 306.768  



Social Policy, John Baldock.  Oxford University Press, 2012

Explores the history and development of social policy and provides a comprehensive introduction to this area of study. An understanding of these themes is essential to social work students and to those studying related disciplines. The glossary provides a list of terms that can help readers to focus and narrow their research themes. 


Some of the subject headings in this study include: social need and inequality, family and welfare, the voluntary sector, global social policy, health policy, housing, crime and punishment. 

British Library shelfmark SPIS 361.610941 



Here is a list of some of the key journals in social work: 


Social Policy and Society 

British Journal of Social Work 

Journal of Social Policy 

Journal of evidence based social work 

Journal of social work practice 

Social Policy and Administration 


Some of the articles from these journals are available for free on the web. Just type the journal title into Google and you should be able to find a full list of articles on the publisher’s website. Look for the Open Access symbol, this means that an article is free to access.  We can provide access to other articles from these journals if they have been published before October 2023, just note down the year and issue number that you need and bring this information to the Social Sciences issue desk.  You can also find some digitised journal articles via the Internet Archive's  Wayback Machine. 


The following titles are held on the open shelves in the SPIS journals collection: 


Professional Social Work 

Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 

Social Theory and Health 

Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma 

Journal of Public Health Policy 


Here is a list of some of the topics associated with social work held within the SPIS books collection (there is a more comprehensive list in the reading room): 


Children 305.23  

Older people 305.26 

Courts 347.4201 

Social work 361.301  

Social action 361.2  

Social work research 362 

Mental health 362.2  

Disabled persons 362.4  

Children problems 362.7  

Criminology 364 

Drug abuse 362.29 

Counselling 361.06 

Delinquent and problem pupils 371.93  


In the OPL section you can find encylopedias and abstracts for related subjects and disciplines

Dictionary shelf

Examples of reference sources on the open shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room.  



Reference materials on the open shelves include the following titles: 


Social research methods OPL 300.72  

Encyclopedias, sociology dictionaries OPL 301.03  

(In this section you can also find encyclopedias in women’s studies, social psychology, adolescence, race and LGBTQ studies) 

Encyclopedias of social work OPL. 361.003  

Social work abstracts OPL 361.973  

Halsbury’s laws of England OPL 344.4209  

Introduction the law and the legal system OPL 345.0973  

Magistrates court guide 2024 OPL 345.38  


Finally, here are some websites and resources that may be useful to your research into social policy: 


The King’s Fund Library 


London School of Economics Library 


British Sociological Association 


King’s College Library 


The Knowledge Exchange 


The following organisations publish research papers, policy briefings and reports on their websites: 


National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) 

Joseph Rowntree Foundation 

Resolution foundation 


The Children’s Commissioner 

Intergenerational Foundation 

International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) 

13 March 2024

Consulting Official Publications collections after the cyber attack.


This post, written by the Library's Content Lead for Official and Government Publications describes how readers can access official publications in the wake of the cyber-attack on the Library in October 2023.   Information about the restoration of services can be found on the British Library Knowledge Matters blog, and details of opening hours and current services are on the Library's website.


Following the cyber-attack on the British Library’s IT estate in October 2023, access to our official publications collections is limited, but will gradually improve.  At present, you can only consult print and microform materials that are either shelved in the Social Sciences Reading Room at St Pancras or in the St Pancras basements. In the reading room we have a selection of historic UK parliamentary and legal texts including:

Commons and Lords journals
The Official Report (Hansard) and Standing Committee Debates
Public General Acts, Local and Personal Acts and Private Acts
UK Statutory Instruments
House of Commons papers and bills on microfiche, 1801-2004/05
House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century reprint edited by Sheila Lambert


Reading room

Official publications on the open shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room at St Pancras.


Basement 1 at St Pancras holds an eclectic mix of UK, US and United Nations publications in print which, in a leap back to the 20th century, can be ordered on paper tickets:

Bound sets of Commons and Lords papers and bills from 1801-
United States Congressional Serial Set 1817/18-1979/90
Electoral registers, 2002-
United Nations documents 1946-2012


Official texts were historically catalogued and shelved in series, not at the individual document level. Fortunately hard copy indexes are still available in the reading room and these will enable you to record the correct citation in the series so that the library assistants can locate your chosen document on the shelf.



Hansard: the official record of parliamentary debates in the House of Commons.


The St Pancras basements also hold a treasure trove of official materials on microform which can be consulted in lieu of electronic sources, such as:

The depository collection of US federal government and Congressional papers, 1982- on microfiche arranged by Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) code
US Congressional hearings on microfiche
Historic electoral registers for England, 1832-1937 on microfilm
HMSO controller’s library on microfilm
Government publications relating to Kenya, 1897-1963 on microfilm
Annual departmental reports relating to Sierra Leone, 1893-1961 on microfilm


There are printed indexes to these sets in the reading room that will help you to find the correct document codes and reel numbers so that you can place orders. There is also a card index of official microforms available for consultation.


Now for the bad news. Apart from these print and microform sets, all other UK, foreign national government, and intergovernmental organisation (IGO) publications are two hundred miles away on our Boston Spa site in Yorkshire. UK departmental publications and electoral registers 1832-2001 in print are kept in an automated store and cannot be retrieved as yet, although restoring this service is a priority.  However the historic collections of foreign national government and IGO documents are in static stores, and we aim to restart delivery around the end of March. You can find their shelfmarks in the interim catalogue or in the printed copy of the British Museum Library catalogue in the Social Sciences reading room.


Edinburgh council

An example of the electoral registers available at the Library.


Our world class collection of subscribed electronic resources is inaccessible at the moment, including full-text document collections such as the US Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994, Congressional Record to 1997,  Congressional Hearings, 1823-1979, US Territorial Papers, the US Foreign Broadcast Information Service, UK Parliamentary Papers, UK State Papers Online 16th-18th centuries, and British Online Archives databases, but in many cases there are print or microform alternatives available.  Originals of digitised UK government archives are available at the National Archives, Kew.  Recent UK, IGO and foreign national government materials can of course be found freely available on the internet.  Large and influential IGOs such as the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank now make their electronic libraries available free as a public good:

World Bank Open Knowledge Repository 
United Nations Official Document System  
IMF eLibrary 


You will find records for electronic UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland government documents acquired through non-print legal deposit before April 2023 in the interim catalogue, but there is no access to the documents themselves at present. We are aiming to restore view access in June or July this year, so watch this space. However, prior to the cyber incident we received feeds of records with hot links to freely available documents published by the European Union, the US federal government and the Irish Republic government. These links work and you can view the documents from within the catalogue.


Access to full text of Scottish government and Parliament documents is available from the National Library of Scotland catalogue (Library Search). Queen’s University Belfast hosts the Northern Ireland Official Publications Archive, a repository containing Northern Ireland government documents. For current UK government and Parliamentary documentation you can of course search Gov.UK and the UK Parliament website.


Navigating the Library’s historic print and microform collections of government and IGO documents is challenging because they were catalogued at the series level (print) or set level (microform). To trace the correct citation of a document within a series or microform set you need to consult a range of printed indexes. Please ask our friendly and efficient reference team for help. They can be contacted in person in the Social Sciences reading room or by email at [email protected]





08 March 2024

Finding Women's Studies on the shelves: an international turn

Transnational feminist

'Transnational feminist politics, education and social justice', edited by Silvia Edling and Sheila Macrine. Shelfmark YC.2023.a.64.   Books published by Bloomsbury are received in print and continue to be available to readers.


The cyber-attack on the British Library and the resulting IT outage have thrown a spotlight on the Library’s collections held in physical formats such as print and manuscripts.  Whilst the Library is working to restore access to digital collections and to material stored in Yorkshire at Boston Spa, the physical collections held in London are still available to readers.   Written on International Women’s Day, this post takes a look at the books on the shelves in the Library's basements at St Pancras. Focusing on books on Women's Studies, it considers the (temporary) effect of bringing a hybrid library back to a primary reliance on print.



'Edith Cavell: faith before the firing squad', by Catherine Butcher (shelfmark YC.2016.a.12850) gazes out from the centre of a row of books received through Legal Deposit. Works centering women are spread through the collections.  This book comes from Lion Hudson (Monarch Books) who publish Christian material, in print format. 


The Library restored access to a temporary version of its online catalogue on 15 January.  That catalogue, based on a back-up version, includes material received by the Library up to April 2023.    The catalogue marks material held in physical form in London as ‘should be available’, whilst e-books, e-journals and e-resources that cannot be accessed, and print materials held at Boston Spa, are marked as ‘unavailable’.  Some materials available online can still be accessed too.


What does this mean in practice for anyone looking for contemporary published books in social science subject areas?


The answer, in short, is that whilst most older social science books are still available, a sizeable proportion of more recent publications from the UK and Ireland cannot currently be accessed. 


After non-print legal deposit regulations came into force in 2013, most of the UK’s major publishers of academic texts switched to depositing their publications in digital format.  This includes very many of the big-hitters in the social sciences.  For books, think Routledge, Ashgate, Gower, Sage, Policy Press (Bristol University), Palgrave Macmillan, Rowman & Littlefield, and smaller independent publishers such as Intellect Books, Verso, Pluto, IB Tauris, Saqi and Zed Press.  Those depositing e-books rather than print also include several university presses, among them UCL, Manchester, Liverpool, Wales, Huddersfield and two of the major US university presses, Yale and Chicago.  For journals the list is similar but also includes Taylor & Francis and Oxford University Press.  These are major publishers of social science materials.


For these publishers, the Library holds books and journals in print format to at least 2013 and sometimes beyond, as not all publishers switched to digital deposit at the same time.  All had completed their transition by 2018, so any books and journals received since then will have been received in digital format and are not currently available.  The Library is working to restore access to these materials.


Academic publishers who continue to deposit their books in print include Cambridge University Press and Bloomsbury (the latter deposits print and digital copies), as well as Oxford University Press (books, but not journals),  along with very many international university presses who deposit because they distribute their books in the UK and Ireland. A wide range of smaller UK and Irish publishers also deposit print copies, but their output in the social sciences is much smaller than the academic presses who deposit books and journals in digital format.


Women's rights in armed conflict


'Women’s rights in armed conflict under international law', by Catherine O’Rourke.  Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2020.  British Library shelfmark YC.2022.a 1908.   Books published by Cambridge University Press are received in print and should be available.


Legal deposit regulations cover the UK and Ireland. The Library purchases a wide range of academic material and other books relevant to readers’ needs published outside the UK and Ireland.  Purchased books in English and in European languages are received in print format and are held in London at St Pancras.  The vast majority of these books should be available to readers, but readers planning to consult items should contact the Reference Services team by emailing  [email protected]  in advance of their visit to ensure that specific items are available.


 purchased women's studies

A screenshot of a catalogue search showing recent books acquired by purchase as mostly still available to readers.


Assessing the resources that are currently available for social science research, there has been less impact for books published before 2013.  After that date, the switch to digital deposit means that a substantial proportion of books published in the UK and Ireland are not currently available.  Books published outside the UK and Ireland, in Europe, the Americas and Oceania, are less impacted by the IT outage.  Most more recent books published in Africa and Asia are not available as most are stored at the Library’s Boston Spa site: there is  information about alternative resources on the Asian and African Studies blog. Additional materials, especially reference books and recent issues of some journals, can be found in the Library's reading rooms, including the Social Science reading room and the Asian and African Studies reading room. 


Gender and elections

'Gender and elections', by Susan Carroll, Richard Fox and Kelly Dittmar.  Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2022.  British Library shelfmark YC.2023.a.1355.


The Library is still able to provide readers with access to a very wide range of important academic texts across all subject areas within the social sciences.  In the absence of a large part of UK and Irish publishing, the more recent books available have a slightly more international frame of reference.


Arab American women

Etel Adnan's artwork graces the cover of the monumental 'Arab American women; representation and refusal', edited by Michael W Suleiman, Suad Joseph and Louise Cainkar.  Syracuse University Press.  Shelfmark YC.2022.b.1696




Knowledge and inspiration combine in 'Womanist and mujerista psychologies: voices of fire, acts of courage', edited by Thema Bryant-Davis and Lillian Comas-Díaz. Washington, D.C. : American Psychological Association, 2016.  Shelfmark YC.2016.b.1854



A brief walk along the shelves in the Library’s basements reveals a rich range of books relevant to women’s studies and women’s history.  Whilst they are generally spread fairly thinly across the shelves, they wait to be discovered and called up to the light of the reading rooms.




The relatively rare sight of two books in a row with a focus on women and gender.  Both the ethnographic study 'Sex, shame and violence: a revolutionary practice of  public storytelling in poor communities' by Kathleen Cash  (YC.2016.b.1866) and 'Nurses as leaders: evolutionary visions of leadership' by William Rosa  (YC.2016.b.1867) are US publications (published by Vanderbilt University Press and Springer,  New York respectively)  showing the international coverage of currently-available, more recent, material in the social sciences.


Recently published books in the humanities and social science sit side by side on the shelves in the basements, whilst works of fiction, general interest, and children's books are housed at Boston Spa.   Interestingly, current drama is housed in London, illustrated in the image below showing three plays, 'Mum' by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, August Strindberg's 'Miss Julie' adapted by Amy Ng and Lulu Raczka's 'Antigone'.   In the centre of this shelf, partly hidden by its label, is Chiara Bottici's 'Anarchafeminism', published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2022.



Social science and humanities books received from UK, Irish and some international publishers by Legal Deposit, and stored at St Pancras.



'Anarchafeminism' by Chiara Bottici (London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2022).  Shelfmark YC.2022.a.8306 is among books available to readers.


Chiara Bottici is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, USA, and has written extensively on philosophy and myth.  Judith Butler, who will be speaking at the British Library on 19 March 2024 (in person tickets are sold out, but online tickets are available), reviewed this latest work by Bottici, saying  "This is a capacious, clear, and revolutionary text that will bring readers who are just starting to learn about feminist philosophy as well as those who have been around a long time. This book does an excellent job in communicating the value of the anarchic, especially in its resistance to the leader, and its thoroughgoing affirmation of the value of freedom. This freedom is not a narrow idea of personal liberty, but an entire mode of transforming the world. We learn as well about a 'transindividualism' which allows us a way to rethink global solidarity for our times."   ( viewed 8/3/2024).