Orwell Prize

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For the NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language, see Orwell Award.

The Orwell Prize is a British prize for political writing of outstanding quality. Two prizes are awarded each year: one for a book and one for journalism; between 2009 and 2012, a third prize was awarded for blogging. In each case, the winner is the short-listed entry which comes closest to George Orwell's own ambition to "make political writing into an art".[1]

In 2015, The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain's Social Evils, sponsored and supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, was launched[2].

Bernard Crick founded the prize in 1993, using money from the royalties of the hardback edition of his biography of Orwell. Its sponsors are Orwell's adopted son Richard Blair, The Political Quarterly, and A. M. Heath & Company.[3] The Prize was formerly sponsored by the Media Standards Trust[4]. Crick remained Chair of the judges until 2006; since 2007, the media historian Professor Jean Seaton has been the Director of the prize.[5]

Winners and shortlists

Book category

Journalism category

Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils

Blog category

Special awards

In 2007, BBC's Newsnight programme was given a special award, the judges noting: "When we were discussing the many very fine pieces of journalism that were submitted Newsnight just spontaneously emerged in our deliberations as the most precious and authoritative home for proper reporting of important stories, beautifully and intelligently crafted by journalists of rare distinction." In 2008, Clive James was given a special award. In 2009, Tony Judt was given a lifetime achievement award. A posthumous award was made to Christopher Hitchens in 2012, his book Arguably having been longlisted that year.[10]


In 2008 the winner in the Journalism category was Johann Hari. In July 2011 the Orwell Prize Council decided to revoke Hari's award and withdraw the prize. Public announcement was delayed as Hari was then under investigation by The Independent for professional misconduct.[11] In September 2011 Hari announced that he was returning his prize "as an act of contrition for the errors I made elsewhere, in my interviews", although he "stands by the articles that won the prize".[12] A few weeks later, the Council of the Orwell Prize confirmed that Hari had returned the plaque but not the £2000 prize money, and issued a statement that one of the articles submitted for the prize, "How multiculturalism is betraying women", published by the Independent in April 2007, "contained inaccuracies and conflated different parts of someone else's story (specifically, a report in Der Spiegel)".[13] In October 2011, the NGO English PEN confirmed that Johann Hari had offered a donation equal to the prize money, in accordance with the wishes of the Orwell Prize trustees.[14]


  1. "The award". The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  2. "The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils". The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 2016-01-06. 
  3. "The sponsors". The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  4. "A brief history". The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 2016-01-06. 
  5. "A Brief History". TheOrwellPrize.co.uk. 
  6. Alison Flood (21 May 2014). "Alan Johnson wins Orwell political writing prize for memoir This Boy". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  7. Pugh, Andrew (27 September 2011). "Johann Hari yet to return Orwell prize £2,000". Press Gazette. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  8. "Winners". The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 8 November 2015. 
  9. "Foreign Matters Blog – Foreign policy and affairs, analysis and insights | Sky News Blogs". Blogs.news.sky.com. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 
  10. "Afghan war book wins Orwell Prize for political writing". BBC News. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  11. Halliday, Josh (27 September 2011). "Johann Hari faces fresh plagiarism allegations". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  12. Hari, Johann (15 September 2011). "Johann Hari: A personal apology". The Independent. London. 
  13. Gunter, Joel. "Orwell Prize will not pursue Hari over failure to return money". www.journalism.co.uk. www.journalism.co.uk. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  14. "News". English Pen. 

External links