The Dorothy Dunnett History Prize 2019

The Dorothy Dunnett History Prize 2019, worth £1000, is offered by the Dorothy Dunnett Society (Scottish Charity SC030649 SCIO) in pursuit of its constitutional aim:

“To advance the education of the public concerning the history, politics, culture and religion of the 11th, 15th and 16th centuries by promoting the study of and research into such subjects particularly as they relate to the works of Dorothy Dunnett and to disseminate to the public the results of such research.”

The Prize is for an essay of up to 5000 words (normally 3000-4000). Entries will be accepted from students registered on a PhD programme at any recognised higher education institution. The competition is open to medievalists, Byzantinists and Ottomanists.

Thematic Guidelines

The novels of Scottish writer Dorothy Dunnett (1923-2001) are supported by extensive geographical and historical research and have wide-ranging settings, including (using present-day names) Scotland, France, England, Belgium, Italy, Cyprus, Russia, Turkey, Poland, Iceland, Algeria, Norway, Gambia and Mali (including Timbuktu). Her work explores many issues of political, military and cultural/social history.

The author set her fictional characters within the actual events and among the real people of the times. Her novels also explore more general themes including: the development of trade; banking; exploration and discovery; the role of women; the rise of industries such as printing and dyeing; diplomacy and spying; social mobility; transport and travel; domestic life; contemporary literature, music, art and artists; the role of religion and religious communities; conflict and war.

Essays may address any aspect of current historical research that meets the Society’s aims and/or falls within the thematic guidelines or other relevant topics and is contained, broadly, within the time periods of the novels.

Style Guidance

We are seeking submissions that will reflect Dorothy Dunnett’s skill in bringing alive the events and people of her chosen periods. While being based on the writer’s PhD work, essays should be written for a well-informed general reader rather than a specialist academic audience. The panel will be looking for involving and readable essays which bring the subject matter to life. The maximum number of words is 5000 but writers should remember that non-academic readers welcome ‘short and pithy’!


Submissions will be considered by a panel of Trustees of the Dorothy Dunnett Society and academics drawn from the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of Edinburgh. The panel may decide to divide the prize amongst a number of winners. The decision of the panel is final. The winner(s) will be notified by email by mid-December 2019.


  • Essays should be based on original research.
  • Submissions must be in English.
  • Submissions which do not meet the word-length requirement (maximum 5000 words) will not be considered.
  • The word count does not include endnotes; however, these should be restricted to the documentation of claims and the registration of relevant caveats or observations.
  • Endnotes must not be used to circumvent the word count length in relation to the argument of the essay.
  • Endnotes and a short bibliography must be submitted separately from the main text.


  • The winner(s) will be expected to give a short account (30 minutes including questions) of their research at the Dorothy Dunnett Weekend event in Edinburgh on 25th April 2020 (or at another event if that is not possible).
  • The prize, which will be paid in British pounds sterling, will be awarded at the event.
  • The essay will be published by the Society in the June 2020 issue of our house journal Whispering Gallery, which is distributed quarterly to our international membership, and the winner(s) will receive a complimentary copy.
  • The essay will also be published on our website

How to enter

The cover sheet for the essay submission and further information on Dorothy Dunnett’s novels can be downloaded here.

Entries must be submitted as an electronic attachment in MS Word format to:

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The closing date for this year’s competition is 15th November 2019.

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