Baillie Gifford Prize
The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction (formerly the Samuel Johnson Prize from 1999 to 2015) is an annual British book prize for the best non-fiction writing in the English language. It was founded in 1999 following the demise of the NCR Book Award. With its motto "All the best stories are true", the prize covers current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts. The competition is open to authors of any nationality whose work is published in the UK in English. The longlist, shortlist and winner is chosen by a panel of independent judges, which changes every year. The award is named after Baillie Gifford, an investment management firm and the primary sponsor. Since 2016, the annual dinner and awards ceremony has been sponsored by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
The prize is governed by the Board of Directors of The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction Limited, a not-for-profit company. Since 2018, the Chair of the Board has been Sir Peter Bazalgette, who succeeded Stuart Proffitt, the Chair since 1999. In 2015, Toby Mundy was appointed as the Prize's first director.
Prior to the establishment of the Samuel Johnson Prize, Britain's premier literary award for non-fiction was the NCR Book Award which had been established in 1987. In 1997, the NCR Award experienced a scandal when it was revealed the judges, many of them chosen for their popularity rather than literary qualities, had used "ghost readers" and were not expected to read the books they voted on. Because of this and other problems the award ceased operations. In response, one of the previous winners of NCR Award, the historian Peter Hennessy, approached Stuart Proffitt, a Publishing Director at Penguin Press, with the idea for a new award. An anonymous benefactor was found who funded the establishment of the Prize, which was named after the English 18th-century author and lexicographer Samuel Johnson.
From its inception through 2001, the prize was independently financed by the founding benefactor. In 2002, it was taken over by the BBC and re-named the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize and managed by BBC Four. In 2009, the name was amended to the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and managed by BBC Two. The new name reflected the BBC's commitment to broadcasting coverage of the Prize on the BBC2 programme, The Culture Show. In 2016, the name was changed to the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, after its new primary sponsor, the Edinburgh-based investment management company Baillie Gifford.
Prior to the 2009 name change, the winner received £30,000, and each finalist received £2,500. After 2009, the award was £20,000 for the winner, and each finalist received £1,000. In February 2012, the steering committee for the prize announced that a new sponsor had been found for the prize, an anonymous philanthropist, enabling the prize money to be raised to £25,000. In 2015, funding for the prize was arranged by the Blavatnik Family Foundation, while the organisers sought new primary sponsors from 2016 onwards.
In 2016, under new sponsors Baillie Gifford, the prize money was restored to £30,000 for the winner.
Winners and shortlists
A blue ribbon (
- Casey Cep, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
- Laura Cumming, On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons
- William Feaver, The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth
- Julia Lovell, Maoism: A Global History
- Azadeh Moaveni, Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS
Hallie Rubenhold, The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
The longlist of 12 titles was announced on 12 September 2019. The shortlist was announced on 22 October 2019. The judging panel was chaired by Times Literary Supplement editor Stig Abell, with Myriam Francois, TV producer and writer; Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, professor of English Literature; Frances Wilson, critic and biographer; Petina Gappah, writer and lawyer and Alexander Van Tulleken, doctor and TV presenter.
- Hannah Fry, Hello World: How to be Human in The Age of The Machine
- Ben Macintyre, The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War
- Thomas Page McBee, Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man
- Stephen Platt, Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age
Serhii Plokhii, Chernobyl: History of A Tragedy
- Carl Zimmer, She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity
The longlist was not publicly announced. The shortlist was announced on 2 October 2018. The 2018 judging panel was chaired by The Economist’s culture correspondent, Fiammetta Rocco, with Stephen Bush, journalist and political commentator; Susan Brigden, historian; Anne-Marie Imafidon, mathematician and campaigner; and Nigel Warburton, philosopher.
David France, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS
- Christopher de Bellaigue, The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason
- Kapka Kassabova, Border: A Journey to The Edge of Europe
- Daniel Mendelsohn, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic
- Mark O'Connell, To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death
- Simon Schama, Belonging: The Story of the Jews, 1492-1900
The longlist was announced on 8 September and the shortlist was announced on 6 October. The 2017 judging panel was chaired by chaired by author and Chairman of ITV Sir Peter Bazalgette, together with Anjana Ahuja, science writer; Ian Bostridge, tenor and writer; Professor Sarah Churchwell, academic and writer and Razia Iqbal, journalist and broadcaster.
Philippe Sands, East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
- Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets
- Margo Jefferson, Negroland: A Memoir
- Hisham Matar, The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In Between
The longlist was announced on 21 September and the shortlist was announced on 17 October. The 2016 judging panel was chaired by former BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders, together with Philip Ball, science writer and author; Jonathan Derbyshire, executive comment editor of the Financial Times; Dr Sophie Ratcliffe, scholar, writer and literary critic and Rohan Silva, co-founder of the social enterprise, Second Home.
Steve Silberman, Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently
- Jonathan Bate, Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life
- Robert Macfarlane, Landmarks
- Laurence Scott, The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World
- Emma Sky, The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq
- Samanth Subramanian, This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan Civil War
The longlist for the 2015 prize was announced on 22 September and the shortlist was announced on 11 October. The 2015 judging panel was chaired by Pulitzer prize-winning historian and journalist Anne Applebaum, together with Editor of Intelligent Life Emma Duncan, Editor of New Scientist Sumit Paul-Choudhury, Director of China Centre at Oxford University Professor Rana Mitter and former Controller of Film and Drama and Head of Film 4 Tessa Ross.
Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk
- John Campbell, Roy Jenkins: A Biography
- Marion Coutts, The Iceberg: A Memoir
- Greg Grandin, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World
- Alison Light, Common People: The History of an English Family
- Caroline Moorehead, Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France
The longlist was announced on 1 September 2014. The shortlist was announced on 8 October 2014. The 2014 judging panel was chaired by author and historian Claire Tomalin, accompanied by Alan Johnson MP, Financial Times Books Editor Lorien Kite, philosopher Ray Monk and historian Ruth Scurr.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, The Pike: Gabriele D'Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War
- David Crane, Empires of the Dead: How One Man’s Vision led to the Creation of WWI's World Graves
- William Dalrymple, Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan
- Dave Goulson, A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees
- Charlotte Higgins, Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain
- Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography
The longlist, which was announced on 6 September 2013, featured 18 books. The Guardian reported that this year, judges showed a preference for history and biography, at the expense of works in science. On 30 September, judges announced the shortlist. The 2013 judging panel was chaired by the cosmologist and Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, accompanied by classical historian Mary Beard, director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, historian Peter Hennessy and the writer and critic James McConnachie.
Wade Davis, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest
- Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum
- Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
- Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity
- Paul Preston, The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain
- Sue Prideaux, Strindberg: A Life
The longlist was announced 17 September 2012, the shortlist was announced 5 October. The winner was announced 12 November. The monetary prize for 2012 was £20,000 for the winner. The judges were David Willetts, Patrick French, Paul Laity, Bronwen Maddox, Raymond Tallis.
Frank Dikötter, Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–1962
- Andrew Graham-Dixon, Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane (biography of Caravaggio)
- Maya Jasanoff, Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World
- Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
- Jonathan Steinberg, Bismarck: A Life (biography of Otto von Bismarck)
- John Stubbs, Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War
Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
- Alex Bellos, Alex's Adventures in Numberland: Dispatches from the Wonderful World of Mathematics
- Luke Jennings, Blood Knots: On Fathers, Friendship and Fishing
- Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves
- Jenny Uglow, A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration
- Richard Wrangham, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
Philip Hoare, Leviathan or, The Whale
- Liaquat Ahamed, Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World
- Ben Goldacre, Bad Science
- David Grann, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
- Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
- Manjit Kumar, Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality
The longlist was announced 14 May 2009. The shortlist was announced in late May. The judges announced the winner of the prize at an awards event at King's Place, London on 30 June. The monetary prize for 2009 was £20,000 for the winner, and each finalist receives £1000. The judges were Mark Lythgoe, Tim Marlow, Munira Mirza, Sarah Sands, Jacob Weisberg.
Kate Summerscale, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or the Murder at Road Hill House
- Tim Butcher, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
- Mark Cocker, Crow Country
- Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
- Patrick French, The World Is What It Is: The Authorised Biography of VS Naipaul
- Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
The longlist was announced on 16 April 2008, the shortlist on 15 May 2008, and the winner on 15 July 2008. The judges were Claire Armitstead, Daljit Nagra, Chris Rapley, Hannah Rothschild, Rosie Boycott.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
- Ian Buruma, Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance
- Peter Hennessey, Having it so Good: Britain in the Fifties
- Georgina Howell, Daughter of the Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell (about Gertrude Bell)
- Dominic Streatfeild, Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control
- Adrian Tinniswood, The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England
James S. Shapiro, 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare
- Alan Bennett, Untold Stories
- Jerry Brotton, The Sale of the Late King's Goods: Charles I and his Art Collection
- Carmen Callil, Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family & Fatherland
- Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
- Tom Reiss, The Orientalist: In Search of a Man Caught between East and West
Jonathan Coe, Like A Fiery Elephant: The Story of B. S. Johnson
- Alexander Masters, Stuart: A Life Backwards
- Suketu Mehta, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
- Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City
- Hilary Spurling, Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour 1909–1954 (about Henri Matisse)
- Sarah Wise, The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London
Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
- Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps
- Jonathan Bate, John Clare: A Biography
- Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
- Aidan Hartley, The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War
- Tom Holland, Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
T. J. Binyon, Pushkin: A Biography
- Orlando Figes, Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
- Aminatta Forna, The Devil that Danced on the Water: A Daughter's Memoir of her Father, her Family, her Country and a Continent
- Olivia Judson, Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex
- Claire Tomalin, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (about Samuel Pepys)
- Edgar Vincent, Nelson: Love and Fame (about Lord Nelson)
Margaret MacMillan, Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War
- Eamon Duffy, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village
- William Fiennes, The Snow Geese
- Richard Hamblyn, The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies
- Roy Jenkins, Churchill: a Biography (about Winston Churchill)
- Brendan Simms, Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia
Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History
- Richard Fortey, Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution
- Catherine Merridale, Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Russia
- Graham Robb, Rimbaud (about Arthur Rimbaud)
- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Prince of Princes: The Life of Potemkin (about Grigory Potemkin)
- Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain, 1937–1946 (about John Maynard Keynes)
David Cairns, Berlioz: Volume 2
- Tony Hawks, Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
- Brenda Maddox, Yeats's Ghosts: The Secret Life of W.B. Yeats (about W. B. Yeats)
- Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
- William Shawcross, Deliver us from Evil: Warlords, Peacekeepers and a World of Endless Conflict
- Francis Wheen, Karl Marx (about Karl Marx)
Antony Beevor, Stalingrad
- Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris (about Adolf Hitler)
- Ann Wroe, Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man (about Pontius Pilate)
- John Diamond, C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too
- Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections (about Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
- David Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
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The UK's most Prestigious non-fiction award
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..the UK's most prestigious non-fiction award..
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The 2018 longlist will not be announced, while the shortlist will be revealed in October.
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