The 2015 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for history has been awarded to Jessie Childs for God’s Traitors, published by Bodley Head.
The annual prize, funded from former PEN member Marjorie Hessell-Tiltman’s bequest to English PEN, celebrates the best non-fiction on a historical subject in any period up to the Second World War.
The critically acclaimed God’s Traitors explores the predicament of Catholics in Elizabethan England, with a focus on one family, the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall. Announcing the winner, chair of judges Tom Holland said:
We are delighted to award this year’s Hessell-Tiltman to Jessie Childs for her gripping book on Catholic dissidents in the reign of Elizabeth I. It is revelatory, wonderfully readable, and — without ever forcing the contemporary parallels — topical as well.
Commenting on the award, Jessie Childs said:
There were times, writing this book, when it didn’t feel like history at all. Thank you very much to English PEN, to the late Marjorie Hessell-Tiltman and to the judges, who had an impossible decision to make. I am thrilled to bits.
The Hessell-Tiltman Prize was judged this year by Tom Holland, who won the prize in 2004 for Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic; David Horspool, history editor of the TLS; and Ruth Scurr, lecturer in history and politics at Cambridge University.
Jessie Childs will receive a cheque for £2,000, to be presented at the PEN Literary Salon at The London Book Fair, Olympia, on 15 April at 4:30pm, when the author will be in conversation with Tom Holland.