James Tait Black Prizes

Britain's oldest literary awards, presented annually to the authors of a work of fiction, biography and dramatic play.

A student from the reading panel, surrounded by books submitted for the prize
Image credit: Angus Blackburn, ab images scotland

The James Tait Black Prizes are the only major British book awards judged by scholars and students of literature.

Founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, the prizes commemorate her husband’s love of good books.

Three prizes, each of £10,000, are awarded annually for:

  • the best work of fiction published in the previous year
  • the best biography published in the previous year
  • the best original new play written in English, Scots or Gaelic and performed by a professional company in the previous year


Past winners of the awards include figures of global literary distinction.

Winners of the fiction prize are a who’s who of the writing world and include Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan, as well as literary giants such as DH Lawrence, EM Forster and Graham Greene.

Similarly, biography prize winners have recently included Hilary Spurling, Michael Holroyd, and Martin Amis. Their works join those of Lytton Strachey, John Buchan and Lady Antonia Fraser as leading examples of the genre.

Drama prize winners include Tim Price, Rory Mullarkey and Gordon Dahlquist.

The James Tait Black Prizes

See the full list of winners on the James Tait Black Prizes website.

Award winners - The James Tait Black Prizes

Any writer who is honoured with the James Tait Black is bound to be thrilled to be joining such a distinguished list of former winners.

Ian McEwan2005 fiction prize winner