Sir George Edward Cory (1862-1935)
The Cory Library for Historical Research was founded in 1931 when Sir George Edward Cory, first Professor of Chemistry at Rhodes University College, presented his extensive private collection to Rhodes University College Library on his retirement.
Cory, in addition to his academic commitments in the field of Chemistry, developed a strong interest in the history of Southern Africa and invested years of enthusiastic amateur research in this field. His research culminated inthe publication of the multi-volume work The Rise of South Africa (1910-1939) which earned him a significant place in South African historiography. It was in pursuit of this research that Cory accrued his rich collection of books, pamphlets, private manuscripts (such as personal diaries and letters), photographs, maps, journals and newspapers, which forms the nucleus of the present Cory Library for Historical Research.
The collection also includes his written records of 62 “conversations” he had with elderly people, both black and white, about the history of South Africa in general and of the Eastern Cape frontier area in particular. Cory recorded the conversations because he realized that the memories of individuals disappear as do old buildings or old documents, but he also found he had a new source of historical information which he could use in his writings. By recording their conversations, he had given voices to people who would otherwise not have been heard outside their own generation. It may be said that Cory accidentally stumbled on the value of oral evidence, but he also may be regarded as one of South Africa’s pioneers in this field which is so crucial to the recording of the history of all our peoples.These oral interviews have been edited by J M Berning and published in the Graham’s Town Series under the title: The historical “conversations” of Sir George Cory.