Professor William Keith Chambers Guthrie collection

Scope and Content

Includes: family correspondence, photographs and slides from travels (to Greece and Asia Minor/ Turkey primarily), speeches, reviews re Guthrie's various publications and correspondence files in Master's capacity relating to matters at Downing College during his tenure [some closed]. Letters to his sister Katharine (later wife of William Collinson of Bombay) from 1925-41 describe his time as an undergraduate at Trinity College, the early stages of his academic career and family life in Cambridge and collecting their parents from London during an air raid (the Blitz) in September 1940. Of particular note are 2 boxes (81 slides) of glass lantern slides relating to epigraphical expeditions to Asia Minor with W. M. Calder and W. H. Buckler, 1929-32, (the findings of which were published in 'Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua, Vol. IV, Monuments and Documents from Eastern Asia and Western Galatia', edited by W. H. Buckler, W. M. Calder and W. K. C. Guthrie (MUP, 1933)). These have now been digitised and are available online via the Cambridge University Digital Library.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Keith Chambers Guthrie was born in London on 1 August 1906, the son of Charles Jameson Guthrie and his wife, both of Scottish descent. He had a sister, Katherine, who was also a Classical scholar. He was educated at Dulwich College before matriculating at Trinity College in Cambridge in 1925, having been awarded the Eric Evan Spicer classical scholarship. He won several prizes as an undergraduate, passing Part I and Part II of the Classical Tripos with a First (a starred First in Part II, which led to him being awarded the top Studentship, the Craven, followed the year after by the Chancellor's Medal for Classics). The Craven Studentship required six months to be spent on research away from Cambridge and so Guthrie joined the epigraphical expedition to Central Anatolia led by W. M. Calder and W. H. Buckler in Spring 1929, although the expedition lasted little more than two weeks due to Mrs Calder's illness. The rest of the summer was spent visiting Greece. He later contracted Malta fever which was traced back to goat's milk given to him by shepherds he met while trekking to Delphi. (Later letters refer frequently to his health probably as a result of the concerns this had raised in his family). The epigraphical studies published in the 'Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua' Vol 4 (1933) were mainly the result of expeditions in 1930 and 1932, intended to complete a survey of monumental inscriptions of a region of Turkey stretching from Afyon Karahisar (Akroenos) to Uluborlu (Apollonia) and Dinar (Apameia), plus the area around ancient Eumeneia. Guthrie began as Calder's assistant, with the team recording twenty inscriptions a day, but was soon taking his own squeezes (copies of inscriptions made with wet filter paper and a fine brush). His travels and those he met on these expeditions, including locals, made a strong impression on Guthrie and he frequently referred to his travels in Asia Minor in his books. During the 1930 expedition he was elected a Bye-Fellow of Peterhouse College and was invited to lecture for the Classical Tripos the following year, lecturing on Aristotle. He became an Assistant Lecturer in 1934, lecturing also on Greek Religious Thought (Part I) as well as Aristotle (Part II). He had become a full Fellow in 1932, becoming Professor in 1952. Guthrie spent a brief spell as University Proctor, 1936-7, dealing with various political and student issues (including a prospective visit to Cambridge by Oswald Mosely, which they deterred inadvertently by requiring it to be held only indoors). He was the University's Public Orator from 1939 to 1957. During the Second World War, Guthrie's wife and two children were evacuated from Cambridge to Wales, although he remained in Cambridge initially, before being commissioned into the Intelligence Corps. He was in London during the blitz before a period in St Albans (where his family joined him), then in 1943 was posted to Istanbul making use of his knowledge of Turkey and Turkish. His main duties were in counter-intelligence. In 1952, Guthrie was elected Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy and, in 1957, finally left Peterhouse to become the tenth Master of Downing College, where he remained until his retirement in 1972, presiding over a period which saw significant building work (the Kenny accommodation blocks and HKPA renovations to the Hall and new SCR), the retirement and replacement of English Fellow, F. R. Leavis, 1962-4, and student unrest in the early 1970s. Professor Guthrie occasionally preached in the Chapel and oversaw a revision of the College Statutes which limited the tenure of the Mastership to fifteen years, which he voluntarily chose to observe himself, although it did not apply to him. He wrote 16 books on ancient philosophy over the course of his long and distinguished career. In 1956 he was approached by Cambridge University Press to write a multi-volume history of ancient philosophy, but on his death in 1981, the six volume series was unfinished. Professor Guthrie died on 17 May 1981.

Access Information

Open records available to visiting researchers by appointment. Some parts of the collection remain closed, awaiting a sensitivity assessment.

Acquisition Information

Guthrie family.

Other Finding Aids

Alternative Form Available

DCPP/GUTH/6/2 - 81 Slides from Asia Minor expeditions, available via Cambridge University Digital Library.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright retained by the Guthrie family.



Related Material

'Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua, Vol. IV, Monuments and Documents from Eastern Asia and Western Galatia', edited by W. H. Buckler, W. M. Calder and W. K. C. Guthrie (MUP, 1933).

Squeezes and other papers of W. M. Calder and the American Society for Archaeological Research in Asia Minor, University of Aberdeen Special Collections (GB 231 MS 3286). Including Guthrie's notebooks from the Asia Minor expeditions, 1929-32?