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James Tait Black Memorial Prize: Wikis


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Founded in 1919, the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are among the oldest and most prestigious book prizes awarded for literature written in the English language and are Britain's oldest literary awards. Based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, United Kingdom, the prizes were founded by Mrs Janet Coutts Black in memory of her late husband, James Tait Black, a partner in the publishing house of A & C Black Ltd.


Notable and recent winners

Four Nobel winners have been recognised by the James Tait Black earlier in their careers. Sir William Golding, Nadine Gordimer and J. M. Coetzee each collected the fiction award, whilst Doris Lessing took the prize for biography prior to receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature. 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. Other major literary figures to receive the award include D. H. Lawrence, Arnold Bennett, John Buchan, Robert Graves, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, Muriel Spark, J.G. Ballard, Angela Carter, Margaret Drabble and Salman Rushdie.

More recent winners of note include Graham Swift, Zadie Smith, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, each of whom have received either the fiction or biography prize in the course of the last decade. The most recent winners (for books published in 2007) were Rosalind Belben for Our Horses in Egypt and Rosemary Hill for God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain. [1]

Selection process and prize administration

The winners are chosen by the Professor of English Literature at the University, who is assisted by PhD 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". [2] 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.[3 ] This increase made the two annual prizes, one for fiction and the other for biography, the largest literary prizes on offer in Scotland.[4 ] 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.[5 ]


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.

Complete list of Winners

Year Fiction Award Year Biography Award
1919 Hugh Walpole, The Secret City 1919 Henry Festing Jones, Samuel Butler, Author of Erewhon (1835-1902) - A Memoir
1920 D. H. Lawrence, The Lost Girl 1920 G. M. Trevelyan, Lord Grey of the Reform Bill
1921 Walter de la Mare, Memoirs of a Midget 1921 Lytton Strachey, Queen Victoria
1922 David Garnett, Lady into Fox 1922 Percy Lubbock, Earlham
1923 Arnold Bennett, Riceyman Steps 1923 Sir Ronald Ross, Memoirs, Etc.
1924 E. M. Forster, A Passage to India 1924 Rev. William Wilson, The House of Airlie
1925 Liam O'Flaherty, The Informer 1925 Geoffrey Scott, The Portrait of Zelide
1926 Radclyffe Hall, Adam's Breed 1926 Reverend Dr H. B. Workman, John Wyclif: A Study of the English Medieval Church
1927 Francis Brett Young, Portrait of Clare 1927 H. A. L. Fisher, James Bryce, Viscount Bryce of Dechmont, O.M.
1928 Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man 1928 John Buchan, Montrose
1929 J. B. Priestley, The Good Companions 1929 Lord David Cecil, The Stricken Deer: or The Life of Cowper
1930 E. H. Young, Miss Mole 1930 Francis Yeats-Brown, Lives of a Bengal Lancer
1931 Kate O'Brien, Without My Cloak 1931 J. Y. R. Greig, David Hume
1932 Helen de Guerry Simpson, Boomerang 1932 Stephen Gwynn, The Life of Mary Kingsley
1933 A. G. Macdonell, England, Their England 1933 Violet Clifton, The Book of Talbot
1934 Robert Graves, I, Claudius and Claudius the God 1934 J. E. Neale, Queen Elizabeth
1935 L. H. Myers, The Root and the Flower 1935 Raymond Wilson Chambers, Thomas More
1936 Winifred Holtby, South Riding 1936 Edward Sackville West, A Flame in Sunlight: The Life and Work of Thomas de Quincey
1937 Neil M. Gunn, Highland River 1937 Lord Eustace Percy, John Knox
1938 C. S. Forester, A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours 1938 Sir Edmund Chambers, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1939 Aldous Huxley, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan 1939 David C. Douglas, English Scholars
1940 Charles Morgan, The Voyage 1940 Hilda F. M. Prescott, Spanish Tudor: Mary I of England
1941 Joyce Cary, A House of Children 1941 John Gore, King George V
1942 Arthur Waley, Translation of Monkey by Wu Cheng'en 1942 Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, Henry Ponsonby: Queen Victoria's Private Secretary
1943 Mary Lavin, Tales from Bective Bridge 1943 G. G. Coulton, Fourscore Years
1944 Forrest Reid, Young Tom 1944 C. V. Wedgwood, William the Silent
1945 L. A. G. Strong, Travellers 1945 D. S. MacColl, Philip Wilson Steer
1946 Oliver Onions, Poor Man's Tapestry 1946 Richard Aldington, A Life of Wellington: The Duke
1947 L. P. Hartley, Eustace and Hilda 1947 Rev. C. C. E. Raven, English Naturalists from Neckham to Ray
1948 Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter 1948 Percy A. Scholes, The Great Dr Burney
1949 Emma Smith, The Far Cry 1949 John Connell, W. E. Henley
1950 Robert Henriques, Through the Valley 1950 Cecil Woodham-Smith, Florence Nightingale
1951 Chapman Mortimer, Father Goose 1951 Noel Annan, Leslie Stephen
1952 Evelyn Waugh, Men at Arms 1952 G. M. Young, Stanley Baldwin
1953 Margaret Kennedy, Troy Chimneys 1953 Carola Oman, Sir John Moore
1954 C. P. Snow, The New Men and The Masters 1954 Keith Feiling, Warren Hastings
1955 Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son 1955 R. W. Ketton-Cremer, Thomas Gray
1956 Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond 1956 St John Greer Ervine, George Bernard Shaw
1957 Anthony Powell, At Lady Molly's 1957 Maurice Cranston, Life of John Locke
1958 Angus Wilson, The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot 1958 Joyce Hemlow, The History of Fanny Burney
1959 Morris West, The Devil's Advocate 1959 Christopher Hassall, Edward Marsh
1960 Rex Warner, Imperial Caesar 1960 Canon Adam Fox, The Life of Dean Inge
1961 Jennifer Dawson, The Ha-Ha 1961 M. K. Ashby, Joseph Ashby of Tysoe
1962 Ronald Hardy, Act of Destruction 1962 Meriol Trevor, Newman: The Pillar and the Cloud and Newman: Light in Winter
1963 Gerda Charles, A Slanting Light 1963 Georgina Battiscombe, John Keble: A Study in Limitations
1964 Frank Tuohy, The Ice Saints 1964 Elizabeth Longford, Victoria R.I.
1965 Muriel Spark, The Mandelbaum Gate 1965 Mary Moorman, William Wordsworth: The Later Years 1803-1850
1966 Christine Brooke-Rose, Such, and Aidan Higgins, Langrishe, Go Down 1966 Geoffrey Keynes, The Life of William Harvey
1967 Margaret Drabble, Jerusalem The Golden 1967 Winifred Gérin, Charlotte Brontë: The Evolution of Genius
1968 Maggie Ross, The Gasteropod 1968 Gordon Haight, George Eliot
1969 Elizabeth Bowen, Eva Trout 1969 Antonia Fraser, Mary, Queen of Scots
1970 Lily Powell, The Bird of Paradise 1970 Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston
1971 Nadine Gordimer, A Guest of Honour 1971 Julia Namier, Lewis Namier
1972 John Berger, G 1972 Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf
1973 Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince 1973 Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great
1974 Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur: or, The Prince of Darkness 1974 John Wain, Samuel Johnson
1975 Brian Moore, The Great Victorian Collection 1975 Karl Miller, Cockburn's Millennium
1976 John Banville, Doctor Copernicus 1976 Ronald Hingley, A New Life of Chekhov
1977 John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy 1977 George Painter, Chateaubriand: Volume 1 - The Longed-For Tempests
1978 Maurice Gee, Plumb 1978 Robert Gittings, The Older Hardy
1979 William Golding, Darkness Visible 1979 Brian Finney, Christopher Isherwood: A Critical Biography
1980 J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians 1980 Robert B. Martin, Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart
1981 Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children, and Paul Theroux, The Mosquito Coast 1981 Victoria Glendinning, Edith Sitwell: Unicorn Among Lions
1982 Bruce Chatwin, On The Black Hill 1982 Richard Ellmann, James Joyce
1983 Jonathan Keates, Allegro Postillions 1983 Alan Walker, Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years
1984 J. G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun, and Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus 1984 Lyndall Gordon, Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life
1985 Robert Edric, Winter Garden 1985 David Nokes, Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed
1986 Jenny Joseph, Persephone 1986 Dame Felicitas Corrigan, Helen Waddell
1987 George Mackay Brown, The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories 1987 Ruth Dudley Edwards, Victor Gollancz: A Biography
1988 Piers Paul Read, A Season in the West 1988 Brian McGuinness, Wittgenstein, A Life: Young Ludwig (1889-1921)
1989 James Kelman, A Disaffection 1989 Ian Gibson, Federico García Lorca: A Life
1990 William Boyd, Brazzaville Beach 1990 Claire Tomalin, The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens
1991 Iain Sinclair, Downriver 1991 Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin
1992 Rose Tremain, Sacred Country 1992 Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe
1993 Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River 1993 Richard Holmes, Dr Johnson and Mr Savage
1994 Alan Hollinghurst, The Folding Star 1994 Doris Lessing, Under My Skin
1995 Christopher Priest, The Prestige 1995 Gitta Sereny, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth
1996 Graham Swift, Last Orders, and Alice Thompson, Justine 1996 Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life
1997 Andrew Miller, Ingenious Pain 1997 R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, Volume 1 - The Apprentice Mage 1965-1914
1998 Beryl Bainbridge, Master Georgie 1998 Peter Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More
1999 Timothy Mo, Renegade, or Halo2 1999 Kathryn Hughes, George Eliot: The Last Victorian
2000 Zadie Smith, White Teeth 2000 Martin Amis, Experience
2001 Sid Smith, Something Like a House 2001 Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes: Volume 3 - Fighting for Britain 1937-1946
2002 Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections 2002 Jenny Uglow, The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810
2003 Andrew O'Hagan, Personality 2003 Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: Volume 2 - The Power of Place
2004 David Peace, GB84 2004 Jonathan Bate, John Clare: A Biography
2005 Ian McEwan, Saturday 2005 Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream (Edvard Munch)
2006 Cormac McCarthy, The Road 2006 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 2007 Rosemary Hill, God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain
2008 Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture 2008 Michael Holroyd, A Strange Eventful History


  1. ^ "Video report of the James Tait Black Prize ceremony, August 2008". University of Edinburgh. August 22, 2008.!fileManager/jamestaitblack08.wvx.  
  2. ^ "Video report of the James Tait Black Prize ceremony, August 2007". University of Edinburgh. August 27, 2007.  
  3. ^ "University boosts James Tait Black Prizes". University of Edinburgh. November 28, 2005.  
  4. ^ "Ali Smith hits the shortlists again". The Guardian. May 2, 2006.,,1765877,00.html.  
  5. ^ "James Tait Black Memorial Prize Ceremony". The University of Edinburgh. June 8, 2007.  

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