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 now taking entries for the 2019 RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction. Open to writers for their first commissioned works of non-fiction, two Awards will be presented, one of £10,000 and one of £5,000, to provide financial support for talented new writers to complete their first book of non-fiction for a mainstream audience, especially by buying them time for writing or research.

The 2019 judges are Rachel Hewitt, Kenan Malik and Fiona St Aubyn (Chair). For details on how to enter and full eligibility please download and read the application form. If you have any questions, please email

Applications must be submitted by 5pm on Monday 16 September. 

The 2018 Awards

We are delighted to announce the recipients of this year’s awards are:

  • £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)

I’m truly elated that the RSL will help me do justice to the cutting-edge research and pressing contemporary issues the book surveys.
Laurence Blair

This award means a huge amount to me. Not only is the judges’ belief in the book wonderfully reassuring, but it has given me more time; a valuable and expansive gift for any writer.
Lily Le Brun

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.