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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


George Mallory (pictured below) was employed as a peripatetic tutor in 1923 by the University of Cambridge’s Board of Extramural Studies (now called the Institute of Continuing Education), just months before attempting to become the first person to scale Mount Everest.

The then Secretary of the Board, Reverend David Cranage, appointed Mallory and subsequently allowed him a leave of absence to join the British expedition to Everest.

100 years after the failed adventure, letters written by Mallory - most of which were to his wife - have now been digitalised, by his Cambridge alma mater Magdelene College.

He writes of the excitement of the expedition and the beauty of the landscape, then harrowingly in another letter, his realisation of his chances at survival.

“It is 50 to 1 against us but we’ll have a whack yet and do ourselves proud.” To his wife her wrote: “Great love to you. Ever your loving, George.”


George Mallory

The Institute of Continuing Education reached out to Magdalene’s archivist Katy Green to find out more. 

Katy shared a letter written on 18 October 1923, in which George’s wife, Ruth, is trying to sell their home, as George is busy buying their new home, ‘Herschel House’ in Cambridge. The family were moving due to George’s appointment as an extramural lecturer in history. Most of the letter is about trivial decorating ideas, but the end of the letter is more poignant.

It explains that George had been approached by the Everest Committee about going out again for a second expedition in 1924 and he was in real turmoil about whether he should go.

Arthur Hinks, of the Mount Everest Committee, wrote to Reverend Cranage (pictured below) to ask him to release Mallory from his job for the expedition but as Mallory notes in the letter, he doesn’t think he will be released. In the end Cranage offered to release him for six months on half pay so the decision as to whether to go was thrust back on him.

It is both fascinating and troubling to read George’s accounts of his inner turmoil about whether to take time off from his work at the Board of Extramural Studies to undertake the expedition that ultimately led to his death.

100 years on from the expedition, you can now read the letters, digitalised by Magdalene College here.


Portrait of Cranage, located in the Board Room at Madingley Hall


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