Lieutenant Commander Allan D. Brown first proposed the idea for an essay contest sponsored by the . Naval Institute for "a paper which shall be deemed the best" on 9 May 1878 at the organization's meeting in Annapolis. The first contest was in 1879. The name of the contest was changed in 1985 to the Arleigh Burke Essay Contest in honor of the World War II hero, former Chief of Naval Operations, and President of the Naval Institute. The name reverted to the General Prize in 2008. Today, the prizes honor the first, second, and third best articles published in Proceedings over the previous year, from October through September of the succeeding year.
Tutor2u arranges a panel of over 20 Economics teacher judges from across the UK, who meet over two days to read through all of the entries and put together a shortlist of essays for final judging and also a list of highly commended entries from the 2016 competition which are then passed to the Royal Economic Society for the final judging. The RES judging panel in 2017 will be made up of: Andrew Chesher (President, RES), Jonathan Haskell (Imperial College London), Bridget Rosewell (Volterra Partners) and Alvin Birdi (Economics Network and University of Bristol).