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The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes

The James Tait Black Memorial Prize

The James Tait Black Prizes are Britain's oldest literary award, first presented in 1919. There are two awards, given respectively to works of Fiction and Biography written in English and published in the previous calendar year. Each is worth £10,000 to the winner. The awards were set up by the widow of James Tait Black, one of the founders of the publisher, A & C Black.

The winner is selected by the Professor of English Literature at Edinburgh University, assisted by PhD students. The absence of critics or any other 'celebrity' judges, along with the prizes' considerable heritage, make them among the most respected awards in publishing. Authors may only win each award once; no author has yet managed to win in both categories.

The prizes' pedigree is confirmed by the many illustrious names who have won. The Fiction Prize has been given to, amongst others, E M Forster, Siegfried Sassoon, Aldous Huxley, D H Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, Beryl Bainbridge, Angela Carter, John le Carré and Bruce Chatwin. Biographers honoured include Lytton Strachey, Antonia Fraser, Richard Ellman, Martin Amis, Victoria Glendinning, Gitta Sereny and Michael Holroyd.

Four victorious authors have gone on to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, William Golding, Nadine Gordimer, J M Coetzee and Doris Lessing (the only one of the four to receive the Biography Prize). Three winning books have also taken the Booker Prize, John Berger's G, 'Best of the Booker' winner Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie and Graham Swift's Last Orders, the latter two of which shared the prize with other books, something that has only happened four times in all and only in the Fiction category.

1942's Fiction winner was, uniqely, a translation; Monkey was Arthur Waley's abridged English version of Wu Cheng'en's 16-century classic Chinese novel, Journey to the West.

The winners for 2014 were announced on 18th August 2015 at the Edinburgh International Book Fair: they were In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman (Fiction) and The Valley: A Hundred Years in the Life of a Yorkshire Family by Richard Benson (Biography).



Fiction winners since 1980

2013 Harvest by Jim Crace

2012 The Dead Man's Pedal by Alan Warner

2011 You and I by Padgett Powell

2010 The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

2009 The Children’s Book by A S Byatt

2008 The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

2007 Our Horses in Egypt by Rosalind Belben

2006 The Road by Cormac McCarthy

2005 Saturday by Ian McEwan

2004 GB84 by David Peace

2003 Personality by Andrew O’Hagan

2002 The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

2001 Something Like a House by Sid Smith

2000 White Teeth by Zadie Smith

1999 Renegade or Halo 2 by Timothy Mo

1998 Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge

1997 Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller

1996 Last Orders by Graham Swift AND Justine by Alice Thompson (currently out of print)

1995 The Prestige by Christopher Priest

1994 The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst

1993 Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

1992 Sacred Country by Rose Tremain

1991 Downriver by Iain Sinclair

1990 Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd

1989 A Disaffection by James Kelman

1988 A Season in the West by Piers Paul Read (currently out of print)

1987 The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories by George Mackay Brown

1986 Persephone by Jenny Joseph (currently out of print)

1985 Winter Garden by Robert Edric (currently out of print)

1984 Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard AND Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

1983 Allegro Postillions by Jonathan Keates (currently out of print)

1982 On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin

1981 Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie AND The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux

1980 Waiting for the Barbarians by J M Coetzee


Biography winners since 2000

2013 Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee

2012 The Last Sane Man: Michael Cardew: Modern Pots, Colonialism, and Counterculture by Tanya Harrod

2011 The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination by Fiona MacCarthy

2010 Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling

2009 William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies by John Carey

2008 A Strange Eventful History by Michael Holroyd

2007 God’s Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain by Rosemary Hill

2006 The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R S Thomas by Byron Rogers

2005 Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream by Sue Prideaux

2004 John Clare: A Biography by Jonathan Bate

2003 Charles Darwin, Vol. 2: The Power of Place by Janet Browne

2002 The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 by Jenny Uglow

2001 John Maynard Keynes, Vol.3: Fighting for Britain 1937-1946 by Robert Skidelsky (currently out of print)

2000 Experience by Martin Amis

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