Jessie Childs has won the 2015 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for history for her book about religious persecution in Elizabethan England, God's Traitors (Bodley Head).
She beat off competition from five other shortlisted authors to win the £2,000 annual prize, funded by former PEN member Marjorie Hessell-Tiltman’s bequest to English PEN, which celebrates the best non-fiction on a historical subject in any period up to the Second World War.
God's Traitors explores the predicament of Catholics in Elizabethan England with a focus on one family, the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall.
Chair of judges Tom Holland, who won the prize in 2004 for Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (Little, Brown), 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.”
Childs said she was “thrilled to bits” to win. She added: "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."
Holland was joined on this year’s judging panel by David Horspool, history editor of the Times Literary Supplement and Ruth Scurr, lecturer in history and politics at Cambridge University.
Childs will receive a cheque for £2,000, to be presented at the PEN Literary Salon at The London Book Fair on 15th April at 4:30pm, when she will be in conversation with Holland.