Archives: Political writing entriesTTTT

Our Enemies will Vanish: The Russian Invasion and Ukraine’s War of Independence

A superb account of the build-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 by one of the world’s most astute observers of global affairs. Trofimov explains how the bloodiest war Europe has seen since 1945 broke out, and sets out with admirable clarity what is at stake for Ukraine, as well as for the rest of the world.


Peter Frankopan, Chair of the Orwell Prize for Political Writing panel 2024

The Achilles Trap

The Achilles Trap is a rigorous, expertly controlled account of what Steve Coll calls the “march to disaster”: the US’s decades-long dealings with Saddam Hussein, characterized by fateful miscalculations and misunderstandings on both sides – a “cascade of errors”, as Coll puts it – and culminating in the catastrophically misjudged American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. A staff writer at the New Yorker and author of several previous books about US involvement in the Middle East, Coll traces the vicissitudes of the US’s relationship with Hussein from his rise to power in 1979 and inauguration of Iraq’s secret nuclear weapons programme, through the precarious collaboration forged with the Reagan administration during the Iraq-Iran war, to the decisive unravelling of relations after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing botched efforts of the CIA to covertly overthrow Hussein. Partly based on 2,000 hours of Hussein’s taped meetings with advisers – which the US discovered during the invasion and some of which Coll accessed by suing the Pentagon – Coll’s intricate, absorbing narrative illuminates the role of political folly, hubris and naivety in a region that continues to be roiled by devastating conflicts.
Lola Seaton, Orwell Prize for Political Writing judge 2024

Revolutionary Acts: Love & Brotherhood in Black Gay Britain

A sparkling book that is all the more remarkable for being the author’s first. Okundaye is an outstanding guide to what it means to be black and gay in Britain, providing a perspective to the last four decades that is as revelatory as it is important. A marvellous piece of work that makes us think hard about how much we truly know about the country we live in.


Peter Frankopan, Chair of the Orwell Prize for Political Writing panel 2024


Why hasn’t this book been written before? From the first ever breast-feeder, Morgie the Jurassic rodent, to mallard ducks and whether men evolved to rape, and the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, this book has an astonishing range. Reimagining evolution through the female of the species, it’s told with pace, wit and scholarship, and made me laugh, made me gasp, made me angry. I learnt new things on every page.


Christina Lamb, Orwell Prize for Political Writing judge 2024

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: A Palestine Story

A powerful, timely and original work of reportage by the Jerusalem-based American journalist Nathan Thrall. It tells the story of a terrible school bus crash in 2012 on a highway outside Jerusalem used predominantly by Palestinians, which was badly maintained and heavily congested thanks to Israeli checkpoints. The accident killed six Palestinian children, including Milad, Abed Salama’s five-year-old son. In plain, vivid prose, Thrall unspools the sequence of events leading up to the crash from multiple perspectives, delving into Abed’s past and into the lives of other parents and family member. Thrall’s careful, historically informed reporting illuminates with distressing clarity the way the Israeli occupation and apartheid system suffuse the intimate lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, leading not only to daily inconveniences, hardships and indignities, but tragedies – accidents that could and should have been avoided.



Lola Seaton, Orwell Prize for Political Writing judge 2024

We are Free to Change the World

Can a book about a towering philosopher ever be described as “zippy”? That’s the word that keeps coming back to me when I think about Lyndsey Stonebridge’s compellingly readable book on Hannah Arendt’s life and work. With antisemitism and totalitarianism on the rise in 2024, Arendt’s lucid thinking is as relevant as ever – and We Are Free to Change the World deserves to be read far and wide. (Especially on university campuses.)

Rohan Silva, Orwell Prize for Political Writing judge 2024

The Picnic

In the summer of 1989, a group of Hungarian activists did something unthinkable: they entered the forbidden militarised zone of the Iron Curtain – and held a picnic. They were joined by East German holidaymakers in Ladas rolling up for goulash, beer and brass-bands. I did not know this story and I loved the way it surprised me and captured the time, the idealism, and the role of ordinary citizens in the unravelling of the Iron curtain – as well as its echoes for today. Wonderfully told through extensive interviews with everyone from the human rights activist who came up with the madcap idea, the stubborn young woman who made it happen, to Stasi agents and border guards.


Christina Lamb, Orwell Prize for Political Writing judge 2024

The Incarcerations

The health – or otherwise – of India’s democracy is about as big as political questions get. By telling sprawling stories of some of India’s bravest campaigners and activists, Alpa Shah reveals an awful lot that’s worrying about India today – but also gives us ample reason to believe that a brighter future may lie ahead.


Rohan Silva, Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2024 judge

Hitler, Stalin, Mum and Dad: A Family Memoir of Miraculous Survival

This powerfully told and meticulously researched and deeply humane testimony of how Daniel Finkelstein’s family history was shaped by the brutality, war and totalitarianism of the Nazi and Communist dictatorships connects the threads of the last century in a way that brings home just how recent its horrors were.


Sunder Katwala, Orwell Prize for Political Writing judge 2024

Who Cares?

Around the world, millions of people are quietly caring for long-term unwell, elderly or disabled loved ones; one-in-eight people in the UK and a sixth of the total US population, with comparable proportions across the globe. For many, this is a full-time job, saving our economies billions each year.

Yet when writer, activist and former policy advisor Emily Kenway found herself in the painful position of caring for her mother, she discovered that provision for people in her situation was, at best, hopelessly inadequate and, at worst, completely non-existent. This isn’t only in the form of paltry financial handouts for informal caregivers, but also a dearth of social, psychological, workplace and community structures to support people going through this experience.

Deftly blending memoir, polemic and deeply researched investigation, Who Cares lifts the lid on a subject society has never been willing to confront. Through Emily’s personal story, as well as the voices of other caregivers and those receiving care, unflinching investigations into the facts of care, and research from scientists at the forefront of potential solutions all over the world, this ground-breaking books asks vital questions about why we have a ‘crisis of care’, at both a global level and in the individual lives affected – and shows how we need to reorganise and reimagine the building blocks of our world to ensure caregiving is at its heart.

Fire of the Dragon

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s global ambitions have taken a dangerous new turn. Bullying and intimidation have replaced diplomacy, and trade, investment, even big-spending tourists and students have been weaponised. Beijing has strengthened its alliance with Vladimir Putin, supporting Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and brooks no criticism of its own flagrant human rights violations against the Uyghur population in western China.

Western leaders say they don’t want a cold war with China, but it’s a little too late for that. Beijing is already waging a more complex, broader and more dangerous cold war than the old one with the Soviet Union. And it is intensifying.

This thought-provoking and alarming book examines this new cold war’s many fronts – from Taiwan and the South China Sea to the Indian frontier, the Arctic and cyberspace. In doing so it proclaims the clear and sobering message that we must open our eyes to the reality of China’s rise and its ruthless bid for global dominance.

Time to Think

Time to Think goes behind the headlines to reveal the truth about the NHS’s flagship gender service for children.

The Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), based at the Tavistock and Portman Trust in North London, was set up initially to provide — for the most part — talking therapies to young people who were questioning their gender identity. But in the last decade GIDS has referred more than a thousand children, some as young as nine years old, for medication to block their puberty. In the same period, the number of young people seeking GIDS’s help exploded, increasing twenty-five-fold. The profile of the patients changed too: from largely pre-pubescent boys to mostly adolescent girls, who were often contending with other difficulties.

Why had the patients changed so dramatically? Were all these distressed young people best served by taking puberty blockers and then cross-sex hormones, which cause irreversible changes to the body? While some young people appeared to thrive after taking the blocker, many seemed to become worse. Was there enough clinical evidence to justify such profound medical interventions in the lives of young people who had so much else to contend with?

This urgent, scrupulous and dramatic book explains how, in the words of some former staff, GIDS has been the site of a serious medical scandal, in which ideological concerns took priority over clinical practice. Award-winning journalist Hannah Barnes has had unprecedented access to thousands of pages of documents, including internal emails and unpublished reports, and well over a hundred hours of personal testimony from GIDS clinicians, former service users and senior Tavistock figures. The result is a disturbing and gripping parable for our times.

The Patriarchs

In this bold and radical book, award-winning science journalist Angela Saini goes in search of the true roots of gendered oppression, uncovering a complex history of how male domination became embedded in societies and spread across the globe from prehistory into the present.

Travelling to the world’s earliest known human settlements, analysing the latest research findings in science and archaeology, and tracing cultural and political histories from the Americas to Asia, she overturns simplistic universal theories to show that what patriarchy is and how far it goes back really depends on where you are.

Despite the push back against sexism and exploitation in our own time, even revolutionary efforts to bring about equality have often ended in failure and backlash. Saini ends by asking what part we all play – women included – in keeping patriarchal structures alive, and why we need to look beyond the old narratives to understand why it persists in the present.

The Last Colony

After the Second World War, new international rules heralded an age of human rights and self-determination. Supported by Britain, these unprecedented changes sought to end the scourge of colonialism. But how committed was Britain?

In the 1960s, its colonial instinct ignited once more: a secret decision was taken to offer the US a base at Diego Garcia, one of the islands of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, create a new colony (the ‘British Indian Ocean Territory’) and deport the entire local population. One of those inhabitants was Liseby Elysé, twenty years old, newly married, expecting her first child. One suitcase, no pets, the British ordered, expelling her from the only home she had ever known.

For four decades the government of Mauritius fought for the return of Chagos, and the past decade Philippe Sands has been intimately involved in the cases. In 2018 Chagos and colonialism finally reached the World Court in The Hague. As Mauritius and the entire African continent challenged British and American lawlessness, fourteen international judges faced a landmark decision: would they rule that Britain illegally detached Chagos from Mauritius? Would they open the door to Liseby Elysé and her fellow Chagossians returning home – or exile them forever?

Taking us on a disturbing journey across international law, THE LAST COLONY illuminates the continuing horrors of colonial rule, the devastating impact of Britain’s racist grip on its last colony in Africa, and the struggle for justice in the face of a crime against humanity. It is a tale about the making of modern international law and one woman’s fight for justice, a courtroom drama and a personal journey that ends with a historic ruling.

Inside Qatar

Just 75 years ago, the Gulf nation of Qatar was a backwater, reliant on pearl diving. Today it is a gas-laden parvenu with seemingly limitless wealth and ambition. Skyscrapers, museums and futuristic football stadiums rise out of the desert and Ferraris race through the streets. But in the shadows, migrant workers toil in the heat for risible amounts.

Inside Qatar reveals how real people live in this surreal place, a land of both great opportunity and great iniquity. Ahead of Qatar’s time in the limelight as host of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup, anthropologist John McManus lifts a lid on the hidden worlds of its gilded elite, its spin doctors and thrill seekers, its manual labourers and domestic workers.

The sum of their tales is not some exotic cabinet of curiosities. Instead, Inside Qatar opens a window onto the global problems – of unfettered capitalism, growing inequality and climate change – that concern us all.

Show Me The Bodies

Peter Apps is an award-winning journalist and Deputy Editor at Inside Housing. He broke a story on the dangers of combustible cladding thirty-four days before the Grenfell Fire. His coverage of the public inquiry has received widespread acclaim. He lives in London. Our 2023 judging panel, chaired by Martha Lane Fox, said:

A magnificent book that deftly combines vivid, compelling accounts of the victims of the fire with forensic (but no less engaging) detail on the decades of politics and policy which led up to it. Expect to find yourself crying over details of building regulations you never knew existed – and over the fact that so many of us let shifts in such regulations go unnoticed, to such devastating impact. Show Me the Bodies has the values of The Orwell Prize at its core: it is beautiful writing about a devastating subject that we should all understand.”


For months, the omens had pointed in one scarcely believable direction: Russia was about to invade Ukraine. And yet, the world was stunned by the epochal scale of the assault that began in February 2022. It was an attempt by one nation to devour another.

Invasion is Luke Harding’s compelling chronicle of the war that changed everything. For this breathtaking work of reportage he spent months reporting on the ground during the build up to the conflict and afterward; his book tells of the initial days of shock and panic, the grim reality of this ongoing war, and the unheard human stories behind the headlines. Invasion also offers insightful portraits of the the war’s two great personalities. One, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is an actor-turned-president who rallied support on a global stage. The other, Vladimir Putin, is a dictator who dwells in a strange and unreachable realm. Harding examines the ideological, religious and personal reasons behind Putin’s decision to invade. And he confronts a crucial question: which side will prevail in this terrible war?

With the ripple effects of the largest armed conflict in Europe since 1945 already being felt beyond Ukraine and Russia’s borders, it is more vital than ever to understand how the situation on the front line will have profound effects for us all. Written in Luke Harding’s starkly transfixing style, Invasion makes for essential reading.


In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all too aware of the urgent health inequalities that plague our world. But these inequalities have always been urgent: modern medicine has a colonial and racist history. Here, in an essential and searingly truthful account, Annabel Sowemimo unravels the colonial roots of modern medicine.

Tackling systemic racism, hidden histories and healthcare myths, Sowemimo recounts her own experiences as a doctor, patient and activist. Divided exposes the racial biases of medicine that affect our everyday lives and provides an illuminating – and incredibly necessary – insight into how our world works, and who it works for. This book will reshape how we see health and medicine – forever.