The English-Speaking Union

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Online Happy Hour Series

Welcome to ESU Happy Hour! The ESU has planned a series of programs to connect and reach out to our members through programs that are engaging, fun, and informative on a wide variety of topics. Happy Hour programs bring to you guest speakers live and free of charge.  Speakers may also suggest a unique cocktail for you to create and enjoy at home. These programs are designed so ESU members and guests can learn and interact with our outstanding speakers. Many speakers will provide exciting participation opportunities with fun give away books and products at the end of each program.

We invite members to suggest topics for future ESU Happy Hour Programs at this link. Cheers!

Watch Previously Recorded Programs

Happy Hour Season 4

Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 4 PM (EDT)

Sisters in Arms With Jeremy Crang

Sisters in Arms: Women in the British Armed Forces during the Second World War During the Second World War some 600,000 women were absorbed into the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and the Women's Royal Naval Service. These women performed important military functions for the British armed forces, both at home and overseas, and the jobs they undertook ranged from cooking, typing and telephony to stripping down torpedoes, overhauling aircraft engines, and operating the fire control instruments in anti-aircraft gun batteries. In his recent book Sisters in Arms (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which draws on a multitude of sources and combines organisational history with the personal experiences of servicewomen, Jeremy Crang traces the wartime history of the WAAF, ATS and WRNS and the integration of women into the armed forces. The author will talk about his book and what life was like for women in the auxiliary services.

Jeremy Crang is Professor of Modern British History and Dean of Students in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. He has written extensively on the British armed forces, and wider British society, during the Second World War. Along with Sisters in Arms, his most recent book, co-edited with the late Paul Addison, is The Spirit of the Blitz: Home Intelligence and British Morale, September 1940-June 1941 (Oxford University Press, 2020). In 2017 he was (with Paul Addison) a historical consultant for the BAFTA-nominated four-part BBC documentary series 'Blitz: the Bombs that Changed Britain'. His maternal grandfather, Robert Reid, was a BBC war correspondent attached to the US Army during the north-west Europe campaign 1944-45.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022 at 4:00 PM (EDT)

Meet the Curator Talk with Carly Collier from Royal Collection Trust -- Victoria & Albert

Carly's illustrated talk will explore Victoria and Albert's shared love for the arts. Using examples drawn from the Royal Collection, she will provide a broad overview of their collecting across a variety of disciplines – from works on paper to paintings, architecture and sculpture, decorative arts and the new and exciting technology of photography. Victoria and Albert were also talented amateur artists themselves, and Carly will demonstrate how their taste and knowledge of the arts was underpinned by practical experimentation. Above all, Carly's talk will illuminate the very personal nature of the royal couple's enjoyment of the arts and reveal how – in the presents they regularly made to one another of works of art of all different types – they expressed their mutual love and devotion.


Carly Collier is an independent art historian. She was previously, first, Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings (2016-2020) and then Assistant Curator of Photographs (2021-2022) at Royal Collection Trust. Her research interests lay in nineteenth-century British art, collecting and taste. She curated the recent Royal Collection Trust touring exhibition (UK only) Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour (2019-21), which commemorated the bicentenary of the births of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The exhibition presented 80 colourful, dynamic watercolours acquired by the royal couple which captured the pomp and spectacle of the British court, foreign travel and diplomacy, the exploration and shaping of a modern nation and, importantly, the close-knit family at the heart of it all. Carly authored a fully illustrated publication to accompany the exhibition and has written and presented widely on the Victorian art in the Royal Collection, including for the BBC and in the recent documentary Prince Albert: A Victorian Hero Revealed (available on PBS).

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022 at 5:00 PM (EDT)

England before the Norman Conquest: History and Historical Vision. What do we know and how do we know it?

This is NOT a history lecture, but rather a brief introduction--through texts, images, and artifacts--to pre-Conquest English culture and to the self-understanding of those who created it.


Robert W. Hanning, Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, has degrees from Oxford and Columbia Universities.  He taught at Columbia for forty-five years, and was visiting professor at Yale, Princeton, John Hopkins and NYU. Recipient of Guggenheim, ACLS, NEH, and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, he has published two major translations and four books, most recently Boccaccio, Chaucer, and Stories for an Uncertain World (Oxford University Press, 2021).

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