The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, The Orwell Foundation awards prizes for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’.
Currently, we award three prizes:
Using the menu above you can find out more about previous winners, shortlists, longlists and judges; the administration of the Prize; and how to enter the Prize.
The Prize was established in its present form by the late Professor Sir Bernard Crick in 1994, ‘to encourage writing in good English – while giving equal value to style and content, politics or public policy, whether political, economic, social or cultural – of a kind aimed at or accessible to the reading public, not to specialist or academic audiences.’
The Orwell Prize is awarded by The Orwell Foundation, a registered charity (1161563). The Orwell Foundation is dedicated to promoting public understanding of and interest in politics and current affairs. Through our free public events, prestigious Orwell lectures and initiatives such as the Unreported Britain project, and the associated Orwell Youth Prize, we take political argument around the country. As the only website officially sanctioned by the Orwell Estate, we also publish work by George Orwell (including our Webby-shortlisted Orwell Diaries blog), articles about Orwell and other online resources.
The Foundation recently hosted the UK’s first live reading of Orwell’s classic novel, 1984: Live which we are following this year with a brand new production based on Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London.
Visit Unreported Britain and The Orwell Youth Prize to find out more about these projects, our George Orwell section for works by and about Orwell, and our events section to see what’s coming up and our video archive of previous events.
HOW THE PRIZE WORKS
Each Prize year features five ‘milestones’: the launch and opening of submissions; the closing of submissions; the longlist announcement; the shortlist announcement; and the announcement of the winners.
The opening of submissions, traditionally marked by a launch debate, happens in late autumn. The Prize aims to tell as many publishers, editors, journalists and bloggers as possible – books can be entered by the author or their publisher and journalists by themselves or their editors. There is no entry fee, and no restriction on how many entries any organisation (publisher or news outlet) may enter. Entries close in the winter (late November for Books, January for Journalism and Exposing Britain’s Social Evils) and are listed on our website to promote as much political writing as possible. All work first published in the UK or Ireland in the calendar year before the date of the Prize is eligible – e.g. for the Orwell Prize 2018, work published between 1st January 2017 and 31st December 2017 may be entered.
The longlists (nominally 14 books and 12 journalists but subject to the discretion of the judges) are publicly announced in spring, followed a few weeks later by the shortlists (6 in each category) at a shortlist debate. The winners are announced at a public awards ceremony a few weeks later, where the judges may also opt to award a special prize at their discretion.
New judges are appointed each year, and the decisions they make are theirs alone – the Prize administration and its sponsors have no role in decision making. Judges are asked to be as objective as possible and put their own political views aside; they are also asked to take into account Orwell’s values for inspiration.
The Book Prize
The Book Prize is for a book or pamphlet, whether fiction or non-fiction, first published in the calendar year preceding the year of the Prize. For example, the Orwell Prize 2018 is for work first published in the calendar year 2017.
‘Political’ is defined in the broadest sense, including (but not limited to) entries addressing political, social, cultural, moral and historical subjects.
Please see the rules for more information.
The Journalism Prize
The Journalism Prize is awarded to a journalist for sustained reportage and/or commentary working in any medium, first published in the calendar year preceding the year of the Prize. For example, the Orwell Prize 2018 is for work first published in the calendar year 2017.
A submission for the Journalism Prize should consist of three items. This might consist of, for example, three printed articles, three television or radio broadcasts, three blog entries, or a combination of different media. There should be a written element to all articles and entrants may include work published by different organisations.
For more information, please see our rules.
In 2014, The Orwell Prize and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation launched The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils, a new social issues journalism prize.
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 supports and encourage original, insightful, and impactful reporting on social issues in the UK.
In addition to the Prize, The Orwell Prize, together with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), are delivering the Unreported Britain Project as one part of the work of the new JRF-sponsored Prize “The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils”.
Entries should consist of a story that has enhanced the public understanding of social problems and public policy in the UK. The story must be clearly and primarily concerned with an aspect of UK society.
Rewarding innovative journalism, the prize welcomes reporting that extends the reach of traditional media. Entries must be communicated across at least two of the following platforms:
• Journalistic writing (online or in print)
• Video content
• Audio content (including radio programmes, podcasts, audio reports)
• Social media content (for example, reporting via Twitter)
Entry is free and there are no charges at any point. A single author, or small group of authors (up to three) may enter.
“The Orwell prize is the prize for political writing, the one you really covet as an author, and getting the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils feels a wonderful affirmation, especially if you are reporting from outside the Westminster bubble.”
Felicity Lawrence, winner The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils 2017
The Orwell Fellowship
All winners and shortlistees of The Orwell Prize are invited to become Orwell Fellows.
In addition to being distinguished former winners, or shortlisted authors, of The Orwell Prize, Fellows are ambassadors of the Orwell Foundation, subscribing to its belief in honest writing by promoting Orwell’s values of integrity, decency, and fidelity to truth.