The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, we award prizes for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’.
But we do much more than that: we take political argument around the country (see our events archive and YouTube channel to watch video of previous events); and as the only website officially sanctioned by the Orwell Estate, we publish work by George Orwell (including our Webby-shortlisted Orwell Diaries blog) and articles about Orwell.
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’.
In the Prize section of the website, 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. Visit 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’: opening of submissions; closing of submissions; longlist announcement; shortlist announcement; and announcement of winners.
The opening of submissions, 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. We feel it is important to the integrity of the process that someone involved in the creation of and somehow responsible for the entry actually enters it. There is no entry fee, and no restriction on how many entries any organisation (publisher or news outlet) may enter. Entries close in January and are listed on our website to promote as much political writing as possible. All work with a British or Irish connection first published in the calendar year before the date of the Prize is eligible – e.g. for the Orwell Prize 2012, work published between 1st January 2011 and 31st December 2011 may be entered.
The longlists (nominally 18 books and 12 journalists) 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 beyond appointing the judges. Judges are asked to be as objective as possible and put their own political views aside; they are also presented with a sheet of Orwell’s values for inspiration.