“We have never needed to support good social reporting more” – Orwell Prize Shortlists Revealed

Thursday 21 May 2020

The shortlists for this year’s Orwell Prizes are announced today, Thursday 21st May 2020. The thirteen books and twelve portfolios of journalism may have been written in a pre-Covid era, but they still resonate and speak to us about the world we might want to live in after and during this crisis. The Orwell Prizes, each worth £3,000, aim to encourage good writing and thinking about politics, inspired by the legacy of the English author, essayist and journalist George Orwell. You can find out more about each entry by following us on Twitter or Instagram or get monthly updates on all things Orwell by subscribing to our newsletter.


The Orwell Prize for Political Writing Shortlist 2020:

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing rewards outstanding works of non-fiction, whether a book or pamphlet. ‘Political’ is defined in the broadest sense, including entries addressing political, social, cultural, moral and historical subjects. The full shortlist is:

Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie (Bodley Head)

Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me by Kate Clanchy (Picador)

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez (Chatto & Windus)

The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment by Amelia Gentleman (Guardian Faber)

Underland:  A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)

Margaret Thatcher – Herself Alone: The Authorized Biography Vol. 3 by Charles Moore (Allen Lane)

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (Profile)


The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction Shortlist 2020:

The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction rewards outstanding novels and collections of short stories which illuminate major social and political themes, past and present, through the art of narrative. This is the second year that the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, sponsored by the Orwell Estate’s literary agents, A. M. Heath, and George Orwell’s son, Richard Blair, has been awarded. The full shortlist is:

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (Galley Beggar Press)

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton)

The Wall by John Lanchester (Faber & Faber)

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail)

Girl by Edna O’Brien (Faber & Faber)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Fleet)


The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils Shortlist 2020:

This is the sixth year that The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils has been awarded. The Prize is sponsored and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and is named in recognition of the task Joseph Rowntree gave his organization ‘to search out the underlying causes of weakness or evil’ that lay behind Britain’s social problems. The Prize has a unique remit to encourage, highlight and sustain original, insightful, and impactful reporting on social issues in the UK that has enhanced the public understanding of social problems and public policy, and welcomes reporting that uses investigative intelligence to pursue new kinds of story, ones that may also extend the reach of traditional media. The full shortlist is:


“This year’s shortlist cuts across media and geography, it rewards investigative teams and single journalists, yet in this diversity we identified a shared commitment to journalism of exceptional quality that seeks to fearlessly expose social evils in our society. These pieces, covering social care, poverty, modern day slavery, education and youth crime all remain relevant today – exposing issues that are being exacerbated by our current climate. We have never needed to support and reward good social reporting more.

Iain Dale, Chair of Judges, The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils


The Orwell Prize for Journalism Shortlist 2020:

The Orwell Prize for Journalism is awarded each year to the commentary and/or reportage, in any medium, which best meets George Orwell’s own ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Independent of editorial agenda, the Prize is free to enter and accepts self-nomination. Journalists are listed alongside the publications written for in their submission. Each journalist is invited to submit three pieces for consideration by the judges. The full shortlist is:


The judges for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Writing are: head of Bloomberg Economics Stephanie Flanders (chair); Elif Shafak, novelist; Paul Laity, deputy editor, Guardian Review; and Robert Tombs, Emeritus Professor of French History at Cambridge.

The judges for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction are: director of the WOW (Women of the World) foundation Jude Kelly (chair);  Matthew Sperling, novelist; Sarah Shaffi, literary journalist and editor; and Tom Gatti, deputy editor of the New Statesman.

The judges for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Journalism are: Ben Fenton (chair), Senior Director and Head of Creative Industries, Edelman; author, journalist and previous Orwell Prize-winner Vanora Bennett; author and journalist Mihir Bose and the journalist and former MP for Ashfield, Gloria de Piero.

The judges for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils are: broadcaster, author and political commentator Iain Dale (chair); Rosie Campbell, Professor of Politics and Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London; Global Drugs Editor, VICE, and previous Orwell Prize-winner Max Daly; Deputy Director of Advocacy and Public Engagement at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Abigail Scott-Paul, and Editor-in-chief, ELLEFarrah Storr.

The winners of the Prizes, which are each worth £3,000, will be unveiled on George Orwell’s birthday, Tuesday 25th June.

The longlists for the Orwell Prizes 2020 were announced earlier this spring.

Notes to editors

  1. The Orwell Foundation is a registered charity (1161563) providing free cultural events and resources for the public benefit. Every year, the Foundation awards The Orwell Prizes, Britain’s most prestigious awards for political writing, to work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. There are currently four prizes: for Political Fiction, Political Writing, Journalism and Exposing Britain’s Social Evils.
  2. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation sponsors the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent social change organisation that through research, policy collaboration and practical solutions, aims to inspire action and change that will create a prosperous UK without poverty.
  3. A. M. Heath, co-sponsors with Richard Blair of the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, are the literary agents of the Orwell Estate. Their clients have won innumerable literary prizes, including the Man Booker five times, the Carnegie, the Costa, the Women’s Prize, the Guardian First Book, the Somerset Maugham, the James Tait Black Memorial and the Orwell Prize.
  4. Richard Blair is George Orwell’s (Eric Blair) only son and was adopted by Orwell and his first wife, Eileen, in June 1944. After Eileen’s death in 1945, Richard spent much time on Jura with his father as he worked on his last novel, 1984.  Following his father’s death from tuberculosis at the age of 46 in January 1950, Richard went to live with his aunt, Orwell’s younger sister Avril.   Richard is a trustee of The Orwell Foundation and The Orwell Youth Prize and Patron of The Orwell Society.
  5. The Orwell Foundation uses the work of George Orwell to celebrate honest writing and reporting, uncover hidden lives and confront uncomfortable truths. The Foundation’s partners and sponsors include University College London, Political Quarterly, Richard Blair, A.M. Heath and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Since 2016, the Orwell Foundation has been based at UCL, which is also home to the world’s most comprehensive body of research material relating to Orwell, the UNESCO registered George Orwell Archive
  6. The Orwell Book Prize was founded in 1994. In 2020 The Orwell Book Prize for Political Writing received entries 219 and The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction received 135 entries. Previous winners have included Anna Burns (Political Fiction 2019) and Patrick Radden Keefe (Political Writing 2019), Darren McGarvey (2018) John Bew (2017), Alan Johnson (2014), and Andrea Gillies (2010).
  7. The Orwell Prize for Journalism was first awarded in 1994. The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils was first awarded in 2014. In 2020 The Orwell Prize for Journalism received 120 entries and The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils received 97 entries. Previous winners have included Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore (Journalism 2019) and Prospect’s Deputy Editor Steve Bloomfield (Journalism 2019), Max Daly, Global Drugs Editor at VICE (Exposing Britain’s Social Evils 2019) and Sarah O’Connor, Special Correspondent at the Financial Times (Exposing Britain’s Social Evils (2018).