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James Tait Black Memorial Prize

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are literary prizes awarded for literature written in the English language. They, along with the Hawthornden Prize, are Britain's oldest literary awards.[1] Based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, United Kingdom, the prizes were founded in 1919 by Mrs Janet Coats Black in memory of her late husband,[2] James Tait Black, a partner in the publishing house of A & C Black Ltd.[3]


  • History 1
  • Selection process and prize administration 2
  • Eligibility 3
  • List of recipients 4
  • Best of the James Tait Black (2012) 5
  • Notes 6
  • External links 7


From inception, the James Tait Black prize was organised without overt publicity. There was a lack of press and publisher attention, initially at least, because Edinburgh was distant from the literary centres of the country. The decision on the award would be made by the Regius Chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at the University of Edinburgh.[1]

Four winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature received the James Tait Black earlier in their careers: William Golding, Nadine Gordimer and J. M. Coetzee each collected the James Tait Black for fiction, whilst Doris Lessing took the prize for biography. In addition to these literary Nobels, Sir Ronald Ross, whose 1923 autobiography Memoirs, Etc. received the biography prize, was already a Nobel Laureate, having been awarded the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on malaria.[4]

In 2012, a third prize category was announced for Drama, with the first winner of this award announced in August 2013.[3]

Selection process and prize administration

The winners are chosen by the Professor of English Literature at the University, who is assisted by postgraduate students in the shortlisting phase, a structure which is seen to lend the prizes a considerable gravitas. At the award of the 2006 prizes, Cormac McCarthy's publisher commented positively on the selection process noting that, in the absence of a sponsor and literary or media figures amongst the judging panel, the decision is made by "...students and professors, whose only real agenda can be great books and great writing".[5] The original endowment is now supplemented by the University and, as a consequence, the total prize fund rose from £6,000 to £20,000 for the 2005 awards.[6] This increase made the two annual prizes, one for fiction and the other for biography, the largest literary prizes on offer in Scotland.[7] The annual prize for drama is worth £10,000.[3] The University is advised in relation to the development and administration of the Prize by a small committee which includes Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and James Naughtie amongst its members. In August 2007 the prize ceremony was held at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for the first time.[8]


Only those works of fiction and biographies written in English and first published in Britain in the 12-month period prior to the submission date are eligible for the award. Both prizes may go to the same author, but neither prize can be awarded to the same author on more than one occasion. For the drama category, the work should have been written in English, Gaelic or Welsh, and performed by a professional theatre company in the 12-month period prior to the submission date.

List of recipients


Year Fiction Award Biography Award Drama Award
1919 Hugh Walpole, The Secret City Henry Festing Jones, Samuel Butler, Author of Erewhon (1835-1902) - A Memoir (Samuel Butler)
1920 D. H. Lawrence, The Lost Girl G. M. Trevelyan, Lord Grey of the Reform Bill (Earl Grey)
1921 Walter de la Mare, Memoirs of a Midget Lytton Strachey, Queen Victoria (Queen Victoria)
1922 David Garnett, Lady into Fox Percy Lubbock, Earlham
1923 Arnold Bennett, Riceyman Steps Ronald Ross, Memoirs, Etc. (autobiography)
1924 E. M. Forster, A Passage to India William Wilson, The House of Airlie (The Earls of Airlie)
1925 Liam O'Flaherty, The Informer Geoffrey Scott, The Portrait of Zelide (Isabelle de Charrière)
1926 Radclyffe Hall, Adam's Breed Reverend Dr H. B. Workman, John Wyclif: A Study of the English Medieval Church (John Wyclif)
1927 Francis Brett Young, Portrait of Clare H. A. L. Fisher, James Bryce, Viscount Bryce of Dechmont, O.M. (James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce)
1928 Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man John Buchan, Montrose (James Graham)[10]
1929 J. B. Priestley, The Good Companions Lord David Cecil, The Stricken Deer: or The Life of Cowper (William Cowper)
1930 E. H. Young, Miss Mole Francis Yeats-Brown, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (autobiography)
1931 Kate O'Brien, Without My Cloak J. Y. T. Greig, David Hume (David Hume)
1932 Helen de Guerry Simpson, Boomerang Stephen Gwynn, The Life of Mary Kingsley (Mary Kingsley)
1933 A. G. Macdonell, England, Their England Violet Clifton, The Book of Talbot (John Talbot Clifton)[11]
1934 Robert Graves, I, Claudius and Claudius the God J. E. Neale, Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth I of England)
1935 L. H. Myers, The Root and the Flower Raymond Wilson Chambers, Thomas More (Thomas More)
1936 Winifred Holtby, South Riding Edward Sackville West, A Flame in Sunlight: The Life and Work of Thomas de Quincey (Thomas de Quincey)
1937 Neil M. Gunn, Highland River Lord Eustace Percy, John Knox (John Knox)
1938 C. S. Forester, A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours Sir Edmund Chambers, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
1939 Aldous Huxley, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan David C. Douglas, English Scholars[12]
1940 Charles Morgan, The Voyage Hilda F. M. Prescott, Spanish Tudor: Mary I of England (Mary I of England)
1941 Joyce Cary, A House of Children John Gore, King George V (George V)
1942 Arthur Waley, Translation of Monkey by Wu Cheng'en Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, Henry Ponsonby: Queen Victoria's Private Secretary (Henry Ponsonby)
1943 Mary Lavin, Tales from Bective Bridge G. G. Coulton, Fourscore Years (autobiography)
1944 Forrest Reid, Young Tom C. V. Wedgwood, William the Silent (William the Silent)
1945 L. A. G. Strong, Travellers D. S. MacColl, Philip Wilson Steer (Philip Wilson Steer)
1946 Oliver Onions, Poor Man's Tapestry Richard Aldington, A Life of Wellington: The Duke (Arthur Wellesley)
1947 L. P. Hartley, Eustace and Hilda Charles E. Raven, English Naturalists from Neckam to Ray (Alexander Neckam and John Ray)
1948 Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter Percy A. Scholes, The Great Dr. Burney (Charles Burney)
1949 Emma Smith, The Far Cry John Connell, W. E. Henley (W. E. Henley)
1950 Robert Henriques, Through the Valley Cecil Woodham-Smith, Florence Nightingale (Florence Nightingale)
1951 Chapman Mortimer, Father Goose Noel Annan, Leslie Stephen (Leslie Stephen)
1952 Evelyn Waugh, Men at Arms G. M. Young, Stanley Baldwin (Stanley Baldwin)
1953 Margaret Kennedy, Troy Chimneys Carola Oman, Sir John Moore (John Moore)
1954 C. P. Snow, The New Men and The Masters Keith Feiling, Warren Hastings (Warren Hastings)
1955 Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son R. W. Ketton-Cremer, Thomas Gray (Thomas Gray)
1956 Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond George Bernard Shaw)
1957 Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly's Maurice Cranston, Life of John Locke (John Locke)
1958 Angus Wilson, The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot Joyce Hemlow, The History of Fanny Burney (Fanny Burney)
1959 Morris West, The Devil's Advocate Christopher Hassall, Edward Marsh (Edward Marsh)
1960 Rex Warner, Imperial Caesar Canon Adam Fox, The Life of Dean Inge (Dean Inge)
1961 Jennifer Dawson, The Ha-Ha M. K. Ashby, Joseph Ashby of Tysoe (Joseph Ashby)
1962 Ronald Hardy, Act of Destruction Meriol Trevor, Newman: The Pillar and the Cloud and Newman: Light in Winter (John Henry Newman)
1963 Gerda Charles, A Slanting Light John Keble)
1964 Frank Tuohy, The Ice Saints Elizabeth Longford, Victoria R.I. (Queen Victoria)
1965 Muriel Spark, The Mandelbaum Gate Mary Caroline Moorman, William Wordsworth: The Later Years 1803-1850 (William Wordsworth)
1966 Christine Brooke-Rose, Such
Aidan Higgins, Langrishe, Go Down
Geoffrey Keynes, The Life of William Harvey (William Harvey)
1967 Margaret Drabble, Jerusalem the Golden Winifred Gérin, Charlotte Brontë: The Evolution of Genius (Charlotte Brontë)
1968 Maggie Ross, The Gasteropod George Eliot)
1969 Elizabeth Bowen, Eva Trout Antonia Fraser, Mary, Queen of Scots (Mary, Queen of Scots)
1970 Lily Powell, The Bird of Paradise Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston)
1971 Nadine Gordimer, A Guest of Honour Julia Namier, Lewis Namier (Lewis Namier)
1972 John Berger, G Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf (Virginia Woolf)
1973 Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great (Alexander the Great)
1974 Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur: or, The Prince of Darkness John Wain, Samuel Johnson (Samuel Johnson)
1975 Brian Moore, The Great Victorian Collection Karl Miller, Cockburn's Millennium (Henry Cockburn)
1976 John Banville, Doctor Copernicus Ronald Hingley, A New Life of Chekhov (Chekhov)
1977 John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy François-René de Chateaubriand)
1978 Maurice Gee, Plumb Robert Gittings, The Older Hardy (Thomas Hardy)
1979 William Golding, Darkness Visible Brian Finney, Christopher Isherwood: A Critical Biography (Christopher Isherwood)
1980 J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians Robert B. Martin, Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart (Alfred Tennyson)
1981 Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast
Victoria Glendinning, Edith Sitwell: Unicorn Among Lions (Edith Sitwell)
1982 Bruce Chatwin, On The Black Hill Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (James Joyce)
1983 Jonathan Keates, Allegro Postillions Alan Walker, Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years (Franz Liszt)
1984 J. G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun
Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
Lyndall Gordon, Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life (Virginia Woolf)
1985 Robert Edric, Winter Garden David Nokes, Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed (Jonathan Swift)
1986 Jenny Joseph, Persephone Dame Felicitas Corrigan, Helen Waddell (Helen Waddell)
1987 George Mackay Brown, The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories Ruth Dudley Edwards, Victor Gollancz: A Biography (Victor Gollancz)
1988 Piers Paul Read, A Season in the West Brian McGuinness, Wittgenstein, A Life: Young Ludwig (1889-1921) (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
1989 James Kelman, A Disaffection Ian Gibson, Federico García Lorca: A Life (Federico García Lorca)
1990 William Boyd, Brazzaville Beach Claire Tomalin, The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (Ellen Ternan and Charles Dickens)
1991 Iain Sinclair, Downriver Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin (Charles Darwin)
1992 Rose Tremain, Sacred Country Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (Christopher Marlowe)
1993 Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River Richard Holmes, Dr Johnson and Mr Savage (Samuel Johnson)
1994 Alan Hollinghurst, The Folding Star Doris Lessing, Under My Skin
1995 Christopher Priest, The Prestige Gitta Sereny, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth (Albert Speer)
1996 Graham Swift, Last Orders
Alice Thompson, Justine
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Thomas Cranmer)
1997 Andrew Miller, Ingenious Pain R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, Volume 1 - The Apprentice Mage 1965-1914 (W. B. Yeats)
1998 Master Georgie Peter Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More (Thomas More)
1999 Timothy Mo, Renegade, or Halo2 George Eliot)
2000 Zadie Smith, White Teeth Martin Amis, Experience
2001 Sid Smith, Something Like a House Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes: Volume 3 - Fighting for Britain 1937-1946 (John Maynard Keynes)
2002 Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections Jenny Uglow, The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 (Lunar Society of Birmingham)
2003 Andrew O'Hagan, Personality Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: Volume 2 - The Power of Place (Charles Darwin)
2004 David Peace, GB84 Jonathan Bate, John Clare: A Biography (John Clare)
2005 Ian McEwan, Saturday [13] Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream (Edvard Munch) [13]
2006 Cormac McCarthy, The Road Byron Rogers, The Man Who Went Into the West: The Life of R. S. Thomas (R. S. Thomas)
2007 Rosalind Belben, Our Horses in Egypt [14] Rosemary Hill, God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain (Augustus Pugin) [14]
2008 Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture [15] Michael Holroyd, A Strange Eventful History (The families of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving)[15]
2009 A. S. Byatt, The Children's Book [16] John Carey, William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies (William Golding)[16]
2010 Tatjana Soli, The Lotus Eaters[17] Hilary Spurling, Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China (Pearl Buck)[17]
2011 Padgett Powell, You and I [18] Fiona MacCarthy, The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination (Edward Burne-Jones)[18]
2012 Alan Warner, The Deadman's Pedal [3] Tanya Harrod, The Last Sane Man: Michael Cardew, Modern Pots, Colonialism and the Counterculture (Michael Cardew) [3] Tim Price, The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning[3]
2013 Jim Crace, Harvest[19] Hermione Lee, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life [19] Rory Mullarkey, Cannibals[20]
2014 Zia Haider Rahman, In the Light of What We Know[21] Richard Benson, The Valley: A Hundred Years in the Life of a Family[21] Gordon Dahlquist, Tomorrow Come Today[22]

Best of the James Tait Black (2012)

In 2012, a special prize was given called the 'Best of the James Tait Black' (in addition to the normal prize for that year).[23][24] The award celebrated the fiction winners over the past 93 years, as part of the 250th anniversary of the study of English Literature at the University. A shortlist of six previous winners competed for the title of Best. A judging panel of celebrity alumni and writers decided on the winner announced on 6 December 2012 as Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus.[25]

Shortlist [23][24]


  1. ^ a b Brian W. Shaffer (2008). A Companion to the British and Irish Novel 1945 - 2000. John Wiley & Sons. p. 164.  
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f Iona McLaren (August 24, 2013). "Winners announced of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 2013". The Telegraph. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ Mary E. Gibson (August 1978). "Sir Ronald Ross and his contemporaries" (PDF). J. Royal Society of Medicine 71: 611–612.  
  5. ^ "Video report of the James Tait Black Prize ceremony, August 2007". University of Edinburgh. August 27, 2007. 
  6. ^ "University boosts James Tait Black Prizes". University of Edinburgh. November 28, 2005. 
  7. ^ Pauli, Michelle (May 2, 2006). "Ali Smith hits the shortlists again". London: The Guardian. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  8. ^ "James Tait Black Memorial Prize Ceremony". The University of Edinburgh. June 8, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Previous winners". James Tait Black Memorial Prize website. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  10. ^ Scholarly revision of Buchan's earlier "The Marquis of Montrose" (1913)
  11. ^ Biography of the explorer John Talbot Clifton (1868-1928), father of Harry Clifton (Henry Talbot de Vere Clifton, dedicatee of W.B. Yeats' poem Lapis Lazuli)
  12. ^ Includes studies of antiquaries including Thomas Madox, John Nalson, Edward Thwaites and Humfrey Wanley
  13. ^ a b John Ezard (June 8, 2006). "A prize, at last, for McEwan novel". The Guardian. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "New winners for oldest book prize". BBC News. August 22, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Alison Flood (August 21, 2009). "Michael Holroyd wins James Tait Black prize 42 years after his wife". The Guardian. 
  16. ^ a b "AS Byatt and John Carey win James Tait Black Memorial Prizes". The Telegraph. August 20, 2010. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "Dazzling tale of Ms Saigon takes top award". The Scotsman. August 20, 2011. 
  18. ^ a b Jen Bowden. "Fiona MacCarthy and Padgett Powell win James Tait Black prizes". The Guardian. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b "Authors join book prize's hall of fame". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved August 23, 2014. 
  20. ^ "2014 drama awards". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved August 23, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Alison Flood (August 17, 2015). "James Tait Black prize goes to Zia Haider Rahman's debut novel". The Guardian. 
  22. ^ "Play by bestselling author wins drama prize". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b Russell Leadbetter (21 October 2012). "Book prize names six of the best in search for winner". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  24. ^ a b "Authors in running for 'best of best' James Tait Black award". BBC News. 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  25. ^ a b Alison Flood (6 December 2012). "Angela Carter named best ever winner of James Tait Black award".  

External links

  • James Tait Black Prizes homepage, University of Edinburgh
  • Windows Media Video report of the 2007 James Tait Black Prize ceremony
  • James Tait Black Prizes homepage, University of Edinburgh
  • New Statesman article on the James Tait Black and Booker prizes
  • James Tait Black feature on the BBC Radio 4's 'Open Book' (includes audio link)
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