The Orwell Prize, based at University College London, is a British prize for political writing. The Prize is awarded by The Orwell Foundation, an independent charity (Registered Charity No 1161563, formerly 'The Orwell Prize') governed by a board of trustees. Four prizes are awarded each year: one each for a fiction (established 2019) and non-fiction book on politics, one for journalism and one for 'Exposing Britain's Social Evils' (established 2015); between 2009 and 2012, a fifth prize was awarded for blogging. In each case, the winner is the short-listed entry which comes closest to George Orwell's own ambition to "make political writing into an art".
In 2014, the Youth Orwell Prize was launched, targeted at school years 9 to 13 in order to "support and inspire a new generation of politically engaged young writers". In 2015, The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain's Social Evils, sponsored and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, was launched.
The British political theorist Sir Bernard Crick founded The Orwell Prize in 1993, using money from the royalties of the hardback edition of his biography of Orwell. Its current sponsors are Orwell's son Richard Blair, The Political Quarterly, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Orwell Estate's literary agents, A. M. Heath. The Prize was formerly sponsored by the Media Standards Trust and Reuters. Bernard Crick remained Chair of the judges until 2006; since 2007, the media historian Professor Jean Seaton has been the Director of the Prize. Judging panels for all four prizes are appointed annually.
Winners and shortlists
The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction (2019 – )
The Orwell Prize for Political Writing (2019 – )
Combined book category (1994 – 2018)
- 1994 Anatol Lieven - The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence
- 1995 Fionnuala O'Connor - In Search of a State: Catholics in Northern Ireland
- 1996 Fergal Keane - Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey
- 1997 Peter Godwin - Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa
- 1998 Patricia Hollis - Jennie Lee: A Life
- 1999 D. M. Thomas - Alexander Solzhenitsyn: a Century in His Life
- 2000 Brian Cathcart - The Case of Stephen Lawrence
- 2001 Michael Ignatieff - Virtual War
- 2002 Miranda Carter - Anthony Blunt: His Lives
- Robert Cooper - The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty First Century
- Monica Ali - Brick Lane
- John Campbell - Margaret Thatcher – Volume Two: The Iron Lady
- Norman Davies - Rising ’44: The Battle For Warsaw
- Hugo Young - Supping with the Devils: Political Journalism from Thatcher to Blair
- Delia Jarrett-Macauley - Moses, Citizen and Me
- Bernard Hare - Urban Grimshaw and The Shed Crew
- Richard Webster - The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt
- Michela Wrong - I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Used and Abused a Small African Nation
- David Loyn - Frontline: The True Story of the British Mavericks Who Changed the Face of War Reporting
- Ekow Eshun - Black Gold of the Sun: Searching for Home in England and Africa
- Peter Hennessy - Having It So Good: Britain in the 1950s
- Simon Jenkins - Thatcher and Sons: A Revolution in Three Acts
- Rory Stewart - Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq
- Lewis Page - Lions, Donkeys And Dinosaurs: Waste and Blundering in the Military
- Carmen Callil - Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland
- Hugh Brogan - Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution
Beginning with 2019, the Book prize was split into fiction and non-fiction categories.
The Orwell Prize for Journalism (1994 – )
The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain's Social Evils (2015 – )
- Alison Holt - Care of the elderly and vulnerable, BBC
- Randeep Ramesh - Casino-style Gambling as a Social Ill
- Nick Mathiason - A Great British Housing Crisis
- Mark Townsend - Serco: a hunt for the truth inside Yarl's Wood
- George Arbuthnott - Slaves in peril on the sea
- Aditya Chakrabortty - London Housing Crisis
- Nicci Gerrard - Words fail us: Dementia and the arts
- Financial Times (Sally Gainsbury, Sarah Neville and John Burn-Murdoch) - The Austerity State
- Channel 4 (Jackie Long, Job Rabkin and Lee Sorrell) - Detention Undercover: Inside Yarl's Wood
- Michael Buchanan - Investigation into NHS Failings
- London Evening Standard (David Cohen, Matt Writtle and Kiran Mensah) - The Estate We're In
- The Guardian (David Leigh, James Ball, Juliette Garside and David Pegg) - The HSBC Files
- Felicity Lawrence - The gangsters on England's doorstep (The Guardian)
- Billy Kenber - Drug profiteering exposed (The Times)
- BuzzFeed News (Tom Warren, Jane Bradley & Richard Holmes) - The RBS Dash for Cash (Editor: Heidi Blake(
- Ros Wynne-Jones - Real Britain (Daily Mirror)
- Mark Townsend - From Brighton the Battlefield (The Guardian)
- True Vision Aire & The Guardian (Anna Hall, Erica Gornal and Louise Tickle) - Behind Closed Doors
- Financial Times (Sarah O’Connor, John Burn-Murdoch and Christopher Nunn) - On the Edge
- Channel 4 News (Andy Davies, Anja Popp, Dai Baker) - Her Name Was Lindy
- BBC Panorama (Joe Plomin) - Behind Locked Doors
- BuzzFeed UK (Patrick Strudwick) - This Man Had His Leg Broken in Four Places Because He Is Gay
- The Observer (Mark Townsend) - Four young black men die: were they killed by the police?
- Manchester Evening News (Jennifer Williams) - Spice
Blog category (2009–2012)
This section needs additional citations for verification
. (December 2020)
- Richard Horton: "NightJack– An English Detective"
- Paul Mason
- Owen Polley
- Iain Dale
- Alix Mortimer
- Andrew Sparrow
- Graeme Archer
- Paul Mason
- Nelson Jones
- Molly Bennett
- Duncan McLaren
- Daniel Hannan
- Cath Elliott
- Rangers Tax Case
- Ms Baroque (pseudonym) – "Baroque in Hackney"
- BendyGirl (pseudonym) – "Benefit Scrounging Scum"
- Alex Massie – "Alex Massie"
- Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi – "Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi"
- Wiggy (pseudonym) – "Beneath The Wig"
- Lisa Ansell – "Lisa Ansell"
In addition to the four regular prizes, the judges may choose to award a special prize. In 2007, BBC's Newsnight programme was given a special prize, the judges noting: "When we were discussing the many very fine pieces of journalism that were submitted Newsnight just spontaneously emerged in our deliberations as the most precious and authoritative home for proper reporting of important stories, beautifully and intelligently crafted by journalists of rare distinction." In 2008, Clive James was given a special award. In 2009, Tony Judt was given a lifetime achievement award. A posthumous award was made to Christopher Hitchens in 2012, his book Arguably having been longlisted that year. In 2014, the Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland was given a special award, after having been shortlisted for the Journalism Prize that year.
In 2008 the winner in the Journalism category was Johann Hari. In July 2011 the Council of the Orwell Prize decided to revoke Hari's award and withdraw the prize. Public announcement was delayed as Hari was then under investigation by The Independent for professional misconduct. In September 2011 Hari announced that he was returning his prize "as an act of contrition for the errors I made elsewhere, in my interviews", although he "stands by the articles that won the prize". A few weeks later, the Council of the Orwell Prize confirmed that Hari had returned the plaque but not the £2000 prize money, and issued a statement that one of the articles submitted for the prize, "How multiculturalism is betraying women", published by The Independent in April 2007, "contained inaccuracies and conflated different parts of someone else's story (specifically, a report in Der Spiegel)".
Hari did not initially return the prize money of £2000. He later offered to repay the money, but Political Quarterly, responsible for paying the prize money in 2008, instead invited Hari to make a donation to English PEN, of which George Orwell was a member. Hari arranged with English PEN to make a donation equal to the value of the prize, to be paid in installments once Hari returned to work at The Independent. However, Hari did not return to work at The Independent.
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