Whitfield Book Prize

The Post Office, April 1809, Designed and etched by Thomas Rowlandson, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, public domain


The Whitfield Book Prize has become one of the most sought after book prizes for early career historians. It was established by the Royal Historical Society in 1976 at the bequest of Professor Archibald Stenton Whitfield, who was a Fellow of the Society from June 1916 until his death in 1974. The prize offers an annual award of £1,000 for a work on British or Irish history that is the author’s first sole book publication.

Applications for the 2024 Whitfield Prize, from publishers, have now closed (31 December 2023). Please see below on the timetable for the 2024 Whitfield Prize and that for 2025 for which applications are invited from September 2024.

Whitfield Book Prize Winner, 2023

Congratulations to Dr Síobhra Aiken whose book Spiritual Wounds. Trauma, Testimony & the Irish Civil War (Irish Academic Press, 2022) was announced as the 2023 winner.

Judges’ citation:

Síobhra Aiken’s Spiritual Wounds offers a fascinating approach to understanding testimonies of the Irish Civil War, revealing through a range of sources what has remained ‘hidden in plain sight’. It challenges the prevailing idea of an enduring silence about the conflict which has sought to forget in order to repair rather than to remember in order to bear witness and grieve.

Through works of autobiography, memoir and fiction in a variety of forms, Aiken explores the manner in which the terrible experiences of war were placed into the public domain by pro- and anti-Treaty men and women, and thus became part of the cultural milieu in the decades that followed.

The book shows how the code of silence around the Irish Civil War was culturally constructed, and it adopts and historicises the framework of ‘trauma’ for its study, offering a model for others to follow. Aiken’s afterword presents fascinating comments on the researcher’s own subjectivity, and the challenges of writing about topics which ‘defy straightforward empathic identification’. It is a powerful contribution to our understanding of the legacy of war, and of historical practice and the role of the historian.

Timetable for the 2024 Whitfield Prize

  • Submissions for the 2023 Prize open: 1 September 2023
  • Closing date for entries for the 2023 Prize: 31 December 2023
  • Shortlist for the 2023 Prize announced: May / June 2024
  • Winner of the 2023 Prize announced: July 2024

All enquiries about the Prize should be addressed to the RHS. Please contact: administration@royalhistsoc.org.

Whitfield Book Prize, 2025

Submissions for the 2025 Prize, from publishers, will be accepted from 1 September 2024 prior to the closing date of 31 December 2024. Further details of the 2025 Whitfield Prize will be announced in due course. To be eligible for consideration for the prize, the nominated title must:

  • be its author’s first solely written history book;
  • be on any historical subject related to British or Irish history;
  • be an original and scholarly work of historical research by an author who received their doctoral degree from a British or Irish university;
  • have been published in English during the calendar year 2024 (for the 2025 award).

Only printed and e-books bearing a 2024 copyright date are eligible for consideration in the current round. Books issued by publishers in the final weeks of 2024, which bear a copyright date of 2025, will be eligible for nomination in the 2025 awards.

Books focused on Atlantic World, British imperial, and trans-national contexts for British and Irish history should be entered for the Gladstone Book Prize. The Chair of the Whitfield Prize Committee will make the final decision as to the eligibility of each submitted volume. The Chairs of the Whitfield Prize Committee and the Gladstone Prize Committee will together decide which competition is most appropriate for any books falling between the criteria for each prize.

Submitting to the Whitfield Book Prize, 2025

  • Publishers are invited to nominate books. (Please note: authors cannot submit their own work.). However, we also ask that colleagues encourage early career historians, across the HE sector, to propose their work for submission by a publisher. This is especially encouraged for early career historians from under-represented groups.
  • The RHS welcomes eligible submissions from the widest possible range of publishers: this includes university presses, commercial publishers of all scales, and non-UK publishers when publishing the first scholarly work by a historian with a doctorate from a UK or Irish university
  • maximum of 4 books may be submitted by any publisher. In selecting your nominations, publishers are asked to follow the Society’s recommendations in our 2018 reports on Race, Ethnicity & Equality and Gender Equality: books submitted should reflect the diversity of those working in the discipline and of their chosen areas of research.
  • To complete the submission per title, publishers are required submit one copy (non-returnable) of the eligible book by 31 December 2023. Books should be sent to the: Membership and Office Administrator, Royal Historical Society, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT. Should the book be short-listed, two further copies will be required.
  • Publishers are asked to ensure submissions comply with the eligibility requirements. Any questions may be sent to: administration@royalhistsoc.org marked Whitfield Prize.

A list of previous winners of the Whitfield Book Prize (1976-2023) is available here.