Records of the Basic English Foundation

Scope and Content

Records of the Basic English Foundation, including annual reports, minutes, policy, subject and correspondence files, 1948-1965; correspondence with Ogden and the Orthological Institute, 1947-1953; files of J.A. Lauwerys (1902-1981), who was a Trustee of the Foundation, from 1951.

Administrative / Biographical History

Basic English was developed by Charles Kay Ogden (1889 - 1957) as an 'international language' and as a system for teaching English to speakers of other languages using a simplified vocabulary of 850 words.

In 1927 Ogden established the Orthological Institute followed by the publication, in quick succession, of 'Basic English' (1930), 'The Basic Vocabulary' (1930), 'Debabelization' (1931) and 'The Basic Words' (1932). A period of rapid expansion saw the establishment of 30 agencies connected with Basic English across the world and by 1939 there were around 200 printed works in, or about, Basic English.

In 1943 Winston Churchill established a cabinet committee looking at Basic English. Following the committee's report, Churchill made a statement to the House of Commons on 9 March 1944. The statement outlined a strategy to develop Basic English as an 'auxiliary international and administrative language'. The statement was later published as White Paper CMD. 6511 titled 'The Atlantic Charter, and the Prime Minister's Statement on Basic English of March 9, 1944; in their original form, and in Basic English, for purposes of Comparison' (DC/BEF/5/10).

Ogden assigned his copyright for Basic English works to the Crown in June 1946. In 1947, with a grant from the Ministry of Education, the Basic English Foundation was established. The Basic English Foundation was constituted as a charitable trust 'to develop the study and teaching of the system and to promote a knowledge of Basic English, and thereby of the English Language, throughout the world'. The Basic English Foundation would remain closely associated with the Orthological Institute through which a certain amount of teacher training in Basic English was conducted.

Following the Second World War those concerned with Basic English were not able to reassemble the international network of teaching agencies. However, the promotion of Basic English as a means of teaching English continued.

The Basic English Foundation's main activity was translating and publishing books in Basic English and, after a controversial history, it finally wound up its activities in the 1960s.


The Basic English Foundation files have been retained. The order that the files are arranged in has been produced during the cataloguing process to establish the present sub-fonds level.

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Acquisition Information

Arrived in the Archives as part of the Lauwerys Collection (DC/JL). Received from Carole Gibbons, Executor of J.A. Lauwerys' estate in February 1987.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist

Custodial History

Originally part of the Lauwerys Collection (DC/JL)

Related Material

The Institute also holds the personal papers of J.A. Lauwerys (1902-1981), who was a Trustee of the Foundation, from 1951 (DC/JL). See also C.K. Ogden, 'Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar' (classmark: HC Mef OGD) and I.A. Richards, 'Basic English and Its Uses' (classmark: HC 1493).

The National Archives hold minutes and papers of government committees relating to Basic English (ED 52)