Header overlay
Jonathan Phillips. The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin

Jonathan Phillips wins The Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize for The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin

Slightly Foxed and The Biographers’ Club are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 prize, chosen by judges Suzi Feay, Maggie Fergusson and Jonathan Keates, is The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin by Jonathan Phillips.

Jonathan Phillips is Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades; The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christianity; The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople; The Crusades, 1095-1197; Defenders of the Holy Land, 1119-1187 and the co-editor of three academic essay collections on the Crusades. Phillips is the co-editor of the academic journal Crusades, writes for BBC History and History Today and has made numerous radio and television appearances.

An epic story of empire-building and bloody conflict, The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin is a ground-breaking biography of one of history’s most venerated military and religious heroes, and opens a window on the Islamic and Christian worlds’ complex relationship.

‘There could be no grander narrative than the story of Sultan Saladin and his counter-Crusade. Jonathan Phillips’s thoroughly absorbing biography takes on a period and an individual of daunting complexity and strangeness, weaving a tale worthy of a leader who proved inspirational to both East and West.’ Suzi Feay, for the judges

View press release

About the Prize

The Prize is awarded to the best book published by a first-time biographer or memoirist. The 2019 winner was announced at the Awards Ceremony, at Maggs Bros. Bedford Square. This is the sixth year of the literary quarterly and independent publisher Slightly Foxed’s sponsorship of the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, with a winner’s award of £2,500. Previous winners: Bart van Es, The Cut Out Girl; Edmund Gordon, The Invention of Angela Carter; Hisham Matar, The Return; Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son; Claudia Renton, Those Wild Wyndhams; Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography; Thomas Penn, Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England; and Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France.

2019 Shortlist

  • Elizabeth Goldring, Nicholas Hilliard (Yale University Press)
  • Celia Paul, Self-Portrait (Jonathan Cape)
  • Jonathan Phillips, The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin (Bodley Head)
  • Francesca Segal, Mother Ship (Chatto & Windus)
  • Lemn Sissay, My Name Is Why (Canongate)
  • George Szirtes, The Photographer at Sixteen (MacLehose Press)

2019 Judges

  • Suzi Feay is a TV critic for the Financial Times, a Member of the Critics Circle and was literary editor of the Independent for 11 years.
  • Maggie Fergusson is the literary editor of the Tablet and biographer of George Mackay Brown and Michael Morpurgo.
  • Jonathan Keates is a novelist, contributor to the Observer and the TLS, and biographer of Handel, Purcell and Stendhal.

Slightly Foxed

Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly and its acclaimed list of classic limited-edition memoirs have become something of an institution in the literary world. Contributors to the magazine include: Diana Athill, Quentin Blake, Ronald Blythe, Margaret Drabble, Adam Foulds, Melissa Harrison, Michael Holroyd, Amy Liptrot, Penelope Lively, Richard Mabey, Robert Macfarlane, Dervla Murphy, Sarah Perry, Jane Ridley, Christopher Rush, Posy Simmonds, Adam Sisman and Ali Smith

‘A wonderful publication, at once unpretentious and lively, edifying and fun. It manages to be not only a superb guide to many excellent books but also to offer writing of its own that is remarkably entertaining.’ The Author

The Slightly Foxed series of memoirs includes works by: Edward Ardizzone, Adrian Bell, Jennie Erdal, Graham Greene, Diana Holman-Hunt, Michael Holroyd, Hilary Mantel, Gavin Maxwell, Jan Morris, Eric Newby, Ernest Shepard and Rosemary Sutcliff.

‘The business of reading should please the hand and eye as well as the brain, and Slightly Foxed editions – books or quarterly – are elegant creations. Content follows form, offering new discoveries and old favourites to curious and discriminating readers.’ Hilary Mantel


For more information about Slightly Foxed or the Prize please contact:

Steph Allen/Hattie Summers
[email protected]
020 7729 9368; +44 20 7729 9368

Comments & Reviews

Leave a comment

Sign up to our e-newsletter

Sign up for dispatches about new issues, books and podcast episodes, highlights from the archive, events, special offers and giveaways.