About the prizes

The Orwell Prizes are the UK’s most prestigious prizes 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’.

We currently award three prizes:

In November the Foundation will be launching a new prize for political fiction, The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, to be awarded for the first time in June 2019. Therefore, entries for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2019 are restricted to works of non-fiction. A separate call for entries for the political fiction prize will go out on 14th November 2018.

The Orwell Prizes aim to encourage good writing and thinking about politics. The winning entries should strive to meet Orwell’s own ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. They should be of equal excellence in style and content – the writing must be both political and artful – and live up to the values of The Orwell Foundation.

The prizes for books and journalism were originally established 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.’

Judges are appointed each year, with a separate panel for each prize, and the decisions they make are theirs alone: the Foundation which administers the prizes 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 Foundation is grateful to its partners and sponsors, whose support secures the continued existence of the prizes.

How the Prizes Work 

The prize year runs from autumn to June. Each 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 winner.

The opening of submissions, traditionally marked by a launch debate or lecture, happens in late autumn. The Foundation aims to tell as many publishers, editors, journalists and bloggers as possible: please subscribe to our mailing list for the latest updates. Journalists can be entered by themselves or their editors; authors should consult with their publisher. There are no entry fees, and no restrictions on how many entries any organisation (publisher or news outlet) may enter. Please be aware that that opening and closing dates are subject to variation across the prizes.

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 2019 Orwell Prizes, work published between 1st January 2018 and 31st December 2018 may be entered. The Orwell Prize for Journalism also accepts entries published internationally, providing there is a discernible link to the UK or Ireland. Please see the rules for further details.

The longlists (nominally twelve entries but subject to the discretion of the judges) are publicly announced in spring, followed a few weeks later by the shortlists (six in each category), traditionally at a shortlist debate or lecture. The winners are announced at a public awards ceremony in the summer, where the judges may also opt to award a special prize at their discretion.

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing (previously, Orwell Prize for Books) is for a work of non-fiction, whether a book or pamphlet, first published in the UK or Ireland in the calendar year preceding the year of the Prize. ‘Political’ is defined in the broadest sense, including (but not limited to) entries addressing political, social, cultural, moral and historical subjects and can include pamphlets, books published by think tanks, diaries, memoirs, letters and essays.

The Orwell Foundation will be launching a new prize for political fiction in mid-November 2018, to be awarded in June 2019. Therefore, entry to the Orwell Prize for Political Writing is limited to works of non-fiction.

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2019 will open for entries on 2nd October 2018 and close for entries 2nd November 2018.

The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction

The Orwell Foundation will launch a political fiction prize in November 2018, to be awarded for the first time in June 2019. The new prize will reward outstanding novels and collections of short stories first published in the UK that illuminate major social and political themes, present or past, through the art of narrative.

To be named The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, the prize will be sponsored by the Orwell estate’s literary agency, A. M. Heath, which celebrates its centenary next year, and George Orwell’s son, Richard Blair. The Foundation, which is based at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies, will work closely with the Department of English Language and Literature at UCL, who will also nominate one of the prize’s four judges.

The Orwell Book Prize, which was previously for both non-fiction and fiction, will be renamed The Orwell Prize for Political Writing and will be open to non-fiction only.

The Orwell Prize for Journalism

The Orwell Prize for Journalism 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. Entry is free and there are no charges at any point.

A submission 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.

The Orwell Prize for Journalism 2019 will open for entries in mid-November 2018.

The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils

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)
  • Photojournalism

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 2016

The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils 2019 will open for entries in mid-November 2018.