University of London Senate House

University of London LogoUniversity of London Senate House

Senate House is the administrative centre of the University of London, situated in the heart of Bloomsbury, London, between the SOAS, University of London to the east, and the British Museum to the south.

The Art Deco building was constructed between 1932 and 1937 as the first phase of a large uncompleted scheme designed for the University by Charles Holden. It consists of 19 floors and is 210 feet (64 m) high.

Today the main building contains the University of London’s Central Academic Bodies and activities, including the offices of the Vice-Chancellor of the University, the entire collection of the Senate House Library, and seven of the nine research institutes of the School of Advanced Study. During the Second World War, the building’s use by the Ministry of Information inspired two noted English writers. Graham Greene’s novel The Ministry of Fear (1943) and its film adaptation Ministry of Fear by Fritz Lang (1944) set in Bloomsbury. George Orwell’s wife Eileen worked in Senate House for the Censorship Department of the Ministry of Information, and her experiences inspired the description of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Senate House Library

Senate House Library (formerly known as the University of London Library) occupies the fourth to the eighteenth floors of the building with the public areas of the library on the fourth to seventh floors. The library is open to staff and students of all colleges within the university (although levels of access differ between institutions) and contains material relevant chiefly to arts, humanities, and social science subjects.

The library is administered by the central university as part the Senate House Libraries, and in 2005 had over 32,000 registered users. It holds around three million volumes, including 120,000 volumes printed before 1851. The library started with the foundation of the University of London in 1836, but began to develop from 1871 when a book fund was started.

Along with a subscription to over 5,200 Journals, other resources include the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature, and the Palaeography room’s collection of western European manuscripts. The library also holds over 170,000 theses by graduate students. From 2006 onwards, the library has been undergoing a comprehensive refurbishment process.

The library is also home to the University of London archives, which include the central archive of the University itself and many other collections, including the papers of philanthropist Charles Booth, philosopher Herbert Spencer, actress and mystic Florence Farr, author and artist Thomas Sturge Moore, writer Opal Whiteley, and publishing company Gerald Duckworth and Company Ltd.