About ESU International

The ESU continues to expand throughout the globe, providing an ever increasing number of opportunities for people from different cultures to meet and learn about each other’s background, beliefs and ideas. Through exchanges, conferences and international debating and public speaking training and competitions, the ESU is creating a network across the world in order to increase international understanding and global awareness.

The ESU at Dartmouth House London works in partnership with a network of ESUs worldwide. It has spread to 52 countries on all five continents. Most recently ESUs have opened in Estonia, Bordeaux, Cyprus, Albania and Turkey.

Education Minister Dolores Cristina cuts the ribbon to officially inaugurate the new premises of the English Speaking Union of Malta

Launch of ESU Cyprus

Each ESU has its own calendar of events which range from public speaking and debating competitions to literary events and lectures. They also take part in the wide programme of events offered by the ESU in London which include the International Public Speaking Competition, the ESU & Globe Education Cultural Seminar and the ESU International Relations Conference.


28th International Public Speaking Competition 2009


This massive ESU International competition draws upon tens of thousands of students from over 40 countries. National winners travel to London to enjoy a week of special events culminating in the international final.
This competition is generously funded in the UK and in countries where HSBC has a presence, by the HSBC Education Trust.




History of ESU International

Sir Evelyn Wrench

The English-Speaking Union was launched at the end of the First World War with the aim of promoting closer ties between the English Speaking peoples. Since then it has grown into a world wide organisation operating in more than 57 countries creating international understanding through the use of the English language. Today many of its members use English as their second or third language or their language of preferred choice. It was founded by Sir Evelyn Wrench and one of its first chairmen was Sir Winston Churchill whose own command of English changed the course of history.

The objects of the ESU are to promote international understanding and human achievement through the widening use of the English language throughout the world. To promote the advancement of education of the English-speaking peoples, in particular respecting their heritage, traditions and aspirations, the events and issues of the day affecting them, their interrelationships and the use of English as a shared language and means of international communication of knowledge and understanding.



Sir Evelyn Wrench’s Early Successful Efforts
A Tribute to the Founder Of The English Speaking Union with Acknowledgements to ‘Concord’

In 1906 a young newspaper editor, Evelyn Wrench, spent a third of his year’s salary achieving a long-felt ambition to visit the United States. Travelling around the country, he became convinced of the mutual interests which linked together members of the English speaking world, and the need for them to get to know each other better. In 1909 he returned to America for a six week tour of 10,000 miles with Lord Northcliffe, and at the end of the trip met Walter Hines Page, then editor of World Week in New York.



Though he toured the British Empire for 17 months, his interest in British-American relations never waned. They were fanned into action when Walter Hines Page was appointed US Ambassador to Great Britain. Early in 1915, Sir Evelyn had a long talk with him at the US Embassy concerning an English speaking union, or brotherhood. In his diary on 2nd February 1915, he referred to it as the Overseas Club of America and said later that this date might be regarded as the day on which the English Speaking Union idea finally took concrete form in his mind. The idea was enthusiastically welcomed by Dr Page.



Sir Evelyn was fortunate that his work tied in with his ideals. In 1918 he was appointed to act as Deputy to Lord Rothermere at the Ministry of Information. The job was one after his own heart for it included the two causes to which he wished to devote his life – the unity of the British Empire and close co-operation of all English speaking peoples. It gave him many opportunities of meeting prominent US visitors to London.

Within a month of joining the Ministry he made up his mind that now was the time to launch the English speaking brotherhood which had occupied his thoughts for so long. In his diary of 12th June 1918, he first referred to the new organisation as “The English Speaking Union”. But it still had to be formed, and on 28th June 1918 Sir Evelyn invited 15 friends to dine with him at the now extinct Marlborough Club which overlooked Pall Mall.



Those present were Algernon Aspinall, an authority on the British West Indies, Boylston Beal, private secretary to Walter Hines Page, Ian Hay Bieth and John Buchan – later Lord Tweedsmuir, both prominent authors, Professor McNeile Dixon, a colleague at the Ministry, the Rev. W.F. Geike-Cob, Rector of St Ethelburga’s, Bishopsgate, Sir Arthur Herbert, who had served in the British Embassy in Washington, Francis Jones of the overseas league, James Keeley, a prominent merchant with connections in the City of London, Henry Noyes of Australia, Francis E. Powell, Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in London, A. Lyle-Samuel, Sir George Sutton, Chairman of Amalgamated Press Limited, Fullerton Waldo, a member of the staff of the Philadephian Public Ledger, and Sir Evelyn himself. The guests, though recognising the difficulties, decided unanimously that the time was ripe for starting the movement. In fact, Sir Evelyn had started recruiting members a week or two earlier and the earliest recorded member in the US was Professor McLaughlin of Chicago University.



By Christmas of that year 200 members had been enrolled – two of the earliest were Sir Harry Lauder and Arnold Bennett. Among the earliest Vice Presidents was Winston Churchill, whom Sir Evelyn invited to become Chairman in 1919. Another was Franklin D. Roosevelt. The organisation grew rapidly and in July 1918 Sir Evelyn took an office in Lennon House, off the Strand to accommodate it. It had the advantage of being near to his office so that he could keep in constant touch.



As soon as the British organisation was established, Sir Evelyn set about spreading the movement to the US. He took a deputation to President Woodrow Wilson at the US Embassy to outline the ideals and purpose.

He was convinced that no method of achieving cooperation between nations was more effective than welcoming the stranger into your home, so he made a card index of all those who would be prepared to invite visitors to lunch, tea, for the weekend, to act as local guides, to help in any way possible.

He wrote a circular letter to Members of Parliament, who had visited the US, asking if they would invite Americans in London to ‘tea on the terrace’ and received a wonderful response. As far as possible, he tried to link those with common or similar interests. Through his efforts, in 1919 the ESU was linked with the ATLANTIC UNION, which meant that the ESU could claim to be the oldest of the various societies which existed for the furtherance of English speaking friendship.

Another landmark in the history of the ESU was in 1919 when Lord Rothermere endowed a Chair of American History at Oxford University in memory of his son who had been killed in the war.



The headquarters were now too small for the original office, so it was moved to new premises in Trafalgar Buildings, overlooking Trafalgar Square. At this time things were not going too well in New York, so Sir Evelyn travelled to the US. There, on 12th May 1920, a new start was made with ex-President William Taft as President of the newly formed ESU of the United States. It was formed as ‘an independent, but sister society, working in the closest touch with the British society’.

From then the ESU flourished. In 1923 the accommodation in Trafalgar House had to be doubled. By 1925 it was clearly inadequate, so it was decided to buy a distinctive house for the permanent home of the ESU. After a six month search, Dartmouth House was decided upon and opened to Members on New Year’s Day 1927.

When Sir Evelyn died in 1966, he had seen his dream child grow beyond his hopes, with Branches and Members in all parts of the UK, the US and the Commonwealth. He probably did more than any other person to increase the understanding and knowledge between the English speaking peoples throughout the world. It is the only epitaph he would have wanted.


ESU International Branches Worldwide

The ESU’s Commitment is to promote international understanding and human achievement through the widening use of the English language throughout the world.

ESU has 41 branches in the United Kingdom, ESU International has 61 branches in 52 countries in every part of the world. [ESU United States is an entirely separate entity.]

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