Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize 2016

Prize-winning essays from our writing competition — and how to enter

The Bodley Head/Financial Times Essay Prize aims to discover young talent from around the world in long-form essay writing, and has led to many new and exciting opportunities for winners and runners-up. Hedley Twidle, winner of the very first prize, is now a regular contributor to the FT and other outlets including the New Statesman. Adnan Sarwar, 2013’s winner, has written widely for the press in the UK. Edward Posnett won in 2014 for his essay ‘Eiderdown’ and has his first book, Harvest, due for publication with The Bodley Head in 2017. Last year’s winner, Laurence Blair, has also recently been signed up by The Bodley Head to write his first book, which expands on his 2015 prize-winning essay ‘Dreams of the sea’.

The competition is open to anyone between 18-35 years old who would like their work to be read and judged by author Simon Schama, Stuart Williams (publishing director, The Bodley Head), Rachel Cugnoni (publisher, Vintage), Alec Russell, (editor, FT Weekend), Rebecca Rose (deputy books editor, FT) and literary agent Georgina Capel of Georgina Capel Associates.

The judges are looking for a dynamic, authoritative and lively essay of no more than 3,500 words. It can be journalistic, a case study, wide-ranging or minutely focused. In keeping with the ethos of both sponsors, it can address any topic – from finance and current affairs to history and scientific discovery.

“FT Weekend is immensely proud of its sponsorship of the essay prize,” says Alec Russell, editor of FT Weekend. “The essay and long-form journalism more broadly have happily defied many doom-laden predictions and are flourishing in digital forms. But in an age of ‘churnalism’ and ‘post-fact’ politics the quest for finding and nurturing new writers is all the more important.”

The winner will receive:

  • £1,000 and an e-publication with The Bodley Head
  • A mentoring session with The Bodley Head and Financial Times
  • A subscription to, and a selection of books from The Bodley Head

Two runners up will win:

  • £500 each and an e-publication with The Bodley Head
  • A digital subscription to FT Weekend, and a selection of books from The Bodley Head

Please enter using the online form, but should you have any urgent queries email Unfortunately, due to the volume of submissions received, we are unable to respond immediately

2015 winner: ‘Dreams of the sea’

Laurence Blair on Bolivia’s battle to reclaim its lost coastline — and the extraordinary backup plan taking shape 2,000km away from the ocean

2014 winner: ‘Upside of down’

Edward Posnett explores the links between Icelanders, ducks and capitalism

2013 winner: ‘British Muslim Soldier’

As a British Pakistani boy growing up in Burnley, Lancashire, Adnan Sarwar endured racial abuse. Here he explores what led him to join the Army

2012 winner: ‘Getting past Coetzee’

Hedley Twidle on his life as a South African academic working in the shadow of the Man Booker-winning author

Simon Schama: ‘Why I write’

To launch the inaugural Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize, Simon Schama reveals why Dickens’ abundance and Orwell’s severity are equally inspiring

Deadline for submissions is January 29 2017 (midnight GMT). Please enter using our application form, where you can also upload your essay

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