RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction

The Royal Society of Literature has established annual awards for first-time writers of non-fiction – in perpetuity – because of a generous bequest from author and RSL Fellow Giles St Aubyn. Giles St Aubyn, who died in 2015 aged 89, wrote 14 non-fiction books and taught history for nearly 40 years at Eton College. A nephew of Vita Sackville-West, he counted John Betjeman, John le Carré and The Queen Mother among his friends. Read the press release announcing the Awards. The new awards build on the RSL’s experience of a previous form of non-fiction awards, generously supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation from 2004 to 2016. More information on the RSL Jerwood Awards.

The 2019 Awards

We are pleased to announce the following winners of the 2019 Awards:

  • £10,000 – Harry DaviesOperation Information (The Bodley Head, 2021)
  • £5,000 – Olive HeffernanThe High Seas: The Race to Save the Earth’s Last Wilderness (Profile Books, 2021)
  • Judges’ Special Commendation – awarded to Rebecca Fogg for Beautiful Trauma (Granta, 2022)

‘I’m deeply grateful to the RSL and the panel of judges for this generous award. Not only is it a great honour, it will make a real difference to my circumstances, affording me the time to continue my research and press on with writing.’ Harry Davies

‘I am utterly thrilled that the RSL judges were excited enough by my book to give me this Award. Their support means the world to me, and it could not have come at a better time in the project.’ Olive Heffernan

‘It’s a great honour and pleasure to be recognised by the RSL and judges for my work in progress. My deepest thanks for their very meaningful support of new authors.’ Rebecca Fogg

The 2019 judges were Fiona St Aubyn (Chair), Rachel Hewitt and Kenan Malik. The Awards were presented on Thursday 28 November 2018 at John Murray House. Read the press release for more information.


The 2018 Awards

We 2019 awards were:

  • £10,000 – Laurence Blair – Lost Countries of South America: Travels in a Continent’s Past and Present(The Bodley Head, 2020)
  • £5,000 – Lily Le Brun– Looking to Sea: Britain Through the Eyes of its Artists (Hodder and Stoughton, 2020)
  • Judges’ Special Commendation – awarded to Paul Craddock for his work in progress Dragon in a Suitcase: A Cultural History of the Art of Transplant (Fig Tree, 2020)


The 2018 judges were: Iain Sinclair (Chair), Laura Bates, Aida Edemariam and Fiona St Aubyn. The Awards were presented on Wednesday 28 November 2018 at John Murray House. Read the press release for more information.

The 2017 Awards

The recipients of the inaugural RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for first commissioned works of non-fiction were:

£10,000 – David Farrier Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils (4th Estate, 2019)
£5,000 – Lisa Woollett Scavenging (John Murray, 2019)
Judges’ Special Commendation is awarded to Joanna Jolly for From the Red River: The Story of the Murder of a Canadian Aboriginal Girl, Tina Fontaine (Virago, 2019).

The 2017 Awards were judged by Richard Holmes (Chair), Afua Hirsch and Fiona St AubynRead the 2017 press release.