The Sophie Coe Prize

The world's best prize for writing on food history

Sophie Coe Prize 2020: one week left

There is one week left in the Sophie Coe Prize competition. Since we have waived the requirement for paper copies this year, you can make use of these last few days to finish getting your entry into shape.

As always, please read our How to Enter page carefully before submitting. We look forward to receiving your entries.

Stay safe and well, everyone.

Sophie Coe Prize entries 2020: three weeks to go!

There are three more weeks to go before the 2020 Sophie Coe Prize submission deadline of Friday 24th April 2020 (midnight GMT). Note that due to the exceptional situation we are all in this year, we have waived the requirement for paper copies to be sent through the mail. All other terms of entry remain the same.

Whether your submission is almost ready or you’re only just getting started, now would be a good time to make sure you have read the updated How to Enter page in detail. Do make sure you are aware of and following all of the guidelines closely.

Happy writing. We hope that it is a welcome and pleasurable distraction in these strange times, and we look forward to receiving your entries as soon as you are ready.

Update to 2020 Entry Requirements – Print Copies no Longer Required

In the current extraordinary situation, we have decided to waive our usual requirement for entrants to send paper copies of their Sophie Coe Prize entries through the mail.

All other entry requirements still apply, and the closing date of 24th April 2020 remains the same. All electronic entries must be received by midnight GMT on that day.

As ever, full details, including the email address for submissions, can be found on the How to Enter page.

Please do all stay safe and well.

Entries welcomed for the 2020 Prize competition

220px-Sophie_dobzhanskyThe Sophie Coe Prize is awarded each year to an engaging, original piece of writing that delivers new research and/or new insights into any aspect of food history. We welcome entries of up to 10,000 words on any relevant topic. The Prize is £1,500 for the winning essay, article or book chapter. Authors may submit one entry only each, and they must be delivered to us by this year’s closing date of 25th April 2020.

The Prize was founded in 1995 in memory of Sophie Coe, the eminent anthropologist and food historian. The winner is selected by our anonymous panel of distinguished judges and announced in early July.

Published and unpublished work may be submitted. If the former, it must have been published within 12 months of the submission deadline. If the latter, it must be in immediately publishable form.

Before submitting an entry please read in full the “How to Enter” page at our website. Entries that do not comply fully with our conditions of entry will not be put forward to our judges. We also advise entrants to read some of the former winning entries to get a good understanding of the kind of original research work we are seeking.

Here at our website you can read all about the Prize past and present, and sign up for reminders and updates. Any queries not answered by the information on our website should be addressed to the Chair via our contact form.

2019 Winner Announced

birthday lunch (2)
Malcolm F. Thick at his 70th birthday lunch, 2019.

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 Sophie Coe Prize is Malcolm Thick, for his informative and original paper, ‘The Sale of Produce from Non-Commercial Gardens in Late Medieval and Early Modern England.’ The judges commented that Thick’s work offers “new insights into one of the mysteries of food in the British Isles: the supply of vegetables, historically, in English food,” revealing through careful scholarship the true place of vegetables in the historic British diet.

The judges also highly commended one essay, “Under the Cover of Savory Vapors–Opossums, Power and Jim Crow Politics” by Stephanie N. Bryan, commenting that this ‘surprising piece of culinary history’ about the custom of hunting and cooking opossums in the southern USA and its manipulation by early 20th century politicians was well researched and well told.

The Prize was announced and presented at the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery on Sunday 14th July, where the judges’ report was read. Thick was unable to attend and receive the Prize in person, but sent a statement of thanks:

I am sorry that a throat and chest infection prevents me from attending this year’s Symposium.

I am delighted [and surprised] to hear I have been awarded the 2019 Sophie Coe prize. Looking through the list of previous winners, I see I am in distinguished company. The money will be used to pay some of the expenses of my latest project – a biography of the eighteenth-century agricultural journalist and writer on country food and medicine, William Ellis. Incidentally, I was awarded a subsidiary Sophie Coe prize in 2000 for my introduction to a new edition of Ellis’s Country Housewife’s Family Companion of 1750.

I warmly thank the panel of judges and the Trustees for awarding me this prize.

Thank you to all 40 individuals who entered work in this year’s Prize competition, and hearty congratulations to our winner and our high commendee.

2019 Prize deadline: April 26th

Entries for the Sophie Coe Prize in food history – £1,500 for the best essay or book chapter submitted to the competition – are due in by 26th April 2019. Click on “How to Enter” above for full details about the kind of work we are looking for, the form of entry, and where to submit your copies to.

We also recommend that entrant read some of the previous winners’ work, in order to understand what the Judges are looking for. Click on “Winners, 1995-2018” above for a full list and links to those we are able to publish on our site.

2018 Winner Announced


L. Phil Iddison, Sophie Coe Trustee and R. Anthony Buccini, the 2018 Prize winner.

Our congratulations go to Anthony Buccini, winner of the 2018 Sophie Coe Prize with his essay “À l’américaine or à l’armoricaine? A New World Sauce in French Regional Cooking and Haute Cuisine”. On presenting him with the £1,500 Prize at the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery on Sunday 8th July, Trustee Phil Iddison read from the Judges’ report which celebrated Buccini’s triumphant reconstruction of the lost history behind the name and his conclusion–that À l’américaine” is to be preferred. Praising his use of cookery skills and etymology to review a conundrum declared immaterial by  Alan Davidson, the Judges admired Buccini’s evocation of “a forgotten culture and an almost undocumented cuisine”.

The Judges had three further commendations.

Chau-Jean Lin’s “Our Friends, the Buffalos”, closely-observed history of the decline and fall of the water-buffalo in Taiwan, was Highly Commended, described by the Judges as “well-written and persuasive”.

Two others were Commended. Valentina Peveri’s “Flavouring the Nation: the Rhetoric of Nutrition Policies in Ethiopia” and Divya Schäfer’s “Exotic Tastes, Familiar Flavours: Transcultural Culinary Interactions in Early Modern India” both, according to the Judges, “deserve to be widely read”.

Our congratulations go to our winner, and to those commended in this year’s Prize. You can read the full report by clicking the link on the menu above.

2018 entry deadline approaching

Entries for the 2018 Sophie Coe Prize are due by 20th April 2018. Please read our How to Enter page for full details.

2017 Winner Announced

Mary-Anne Boermans is the winner of this year’s Sophie Coe Prize, for her essay “Life Of Pikelet“. This investigation answers an apparently simple question about English food: what is the difference between a crumpet and a pikelet? and in the process reminds us that in most areas of food history there is no such thing as a simple question. Following these baked goods through centuries and across counties, Boermans essay was praised by the judges for its “originality, thoroughness of research and lucidity of explanation”. She is the worthy winner of this year’s Prize of £1,500.

In a year of 22 entries there were, of course, other strong contenders for the award. Previous winner and many times commendee Anthony Buccini was Highly Commended this year for his essay  “Un vrai jambalaya — ‘a real mess’. The Southern French Origins of Louisiana’s Famous Dish and its Surprising Connexions to ‘Hopping John’“; while Hongyan Yang’s “Cooking in the Hmong Cultural Kitchen” was recognised with an Honorouable Mention.

Full details and, where permissions make it possible, copies of the essays, can be read on our Winners page.

Our thanks to all entrants, and our hearty congratulations to all those singled out by our judges, and in particular, to our winner Mary-Anne Boermans.

One week to go

The 2017 Sophie Coe Prize closes in one week’s time. All entries, submitted in the forms stated in the Guidelines on our  How to Enter page, must reach us by midnight GMT on Friday 5th May 2017.

There is still time to finish your work and get it to us – don’t miss out on the chance to win this year’s Prize.

Good luck!