The Crime Writers' Association first created its award for best crime novel of the year in 1955, under the name of the Crossed Red Herrings Award: the first winner was Winston Graham for The Little Walls. The award was renamed the Gold Dagger in 1960. From 1969 to 2005, a Silver Dagger was also awarded to the runner up.

Between 1995 and 2002, the awards were sponsored by The Macallan, distillers of the finest Single Highland Malt Whisky, and named The Macallan Gold and Silver Daggers.

For the three years 2006 to 2008 the Gold Dagger was renamed the Duncan Lawrie Dagger in honour of its sponsor, the Duncan Lawrie Private Bank.

From 2013 this award is sponsored by Goldsboro Books, specialists in first edition, signed books.

Up to and including 2005, books in translation were eligible for this prize. In 2006 on, a separate Dagger, The CWA International Dagger was introduced for books in translation, recogniseing the work of the translator as well as that of the original author.

The CWA Gold Dagger
2012: The Rage (Vintage) - Gene Kerrigan
2011: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (Macmillan) - Tom Franklin
2010: Blacklands (Transworld) - Belinda Bauer
2009: A Whispered Name (Little, Brown) - William Brodrick
The CWA Duncan Lawrie Gold Dagger
2008: Blood From Stone (Sphere) - Frances Fyfield
2007: The Broken Shore (Quercus) - Peter Temple
2006: Raven Black (Pan Macmillan) - Ann Cleeves
The CWA Gold and Silver Daggers for Fiction
2005 Gold: Silence of the Grave (The Harvill Press) - Arnaldur Indridason (translator: Bernard Scudder)
Silver: Deadly Web (Headline) - Barbara Nadel
2004 Gold: Blacklist (Hamish Hamilton)- Sara Paretsky
Silver: Flesh and Blood (Heinemann)- John Harvey
2003 Gold: Fox Evil (Macmillan) - Minette Walters
Silver: Half-Broken Things (Hodder & Stoughton) - Morag Joss
The Macallan Gold and Silver Daggers for Fiction
2002 Gold: The Athenian Murders (Abacus) - Jose Carlos Samoza
Silver: The Final Country (HarperCollins) - James Crumley
2001 Gold: Sidetracked (The Harvill Press) - Henning Mankell
Silver: Forty Words for Sorrow (HarperCollins) - Giles Blunt
2000 Gold: Motherless Brooklyn (Faber & Faber) - Jonathan Lethem
Silver: Friends in High Places (Heinneman) - Donna Leon
1999 Gold: A Small Death in Lisbon (HarperCollins) - Robert Wilson
Silver: Vienna Blood (Cape) - Adrian Mathews
1998 Gold: Sunset Limited (Orion) - James Lee Burke
Silver: Manchester Slingback (Picador) - Nicholas Blincoe
1997 Gold: Black And Blue (Orion) - Ian Rankin
Silver: Three to get Deadly (Viking) - Janet Evanovich
1996 Gold: Popcorn - Ben Elton
Silver: Bloodhounds (LittleBrown) - Peter Lovesey
1995 Gold: The Mermaids Singing - Val McDermid
Silver: The Summons (LittleBrown) - Peter Lovesey
The CWA Gold and Silver Daggers for Fiction
1994 Gold: The Scold's Bridle - Minette Walters
Silver: Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow Peter Hoeg
1993 Gold: Cruel and Unusual - Patricia Cornwell
Silver: Fatlands - Sarah Dunant
1992 Gold: The Way Through the Woods - Colin Dexter
Silver: Bucket Nut - Liza Cody
1991 Gold: King Solomon's Carpet - Barbara Vine
Silver: Deep Sleep - Frances Fyfield
1990 Gold: Bones and Silence - Reginald Hill
Silver: The Late Candidate Mike Phillips
1989 Gold: The Wench is Dead - Colin Dexter
Silver: The Shadow Run - Desmond Lowden
1988 Gold: Ratking - Michael Dibdin
Silver: Toxic Shock Sara Paretsky
1987 Gold: A Fatal Inversion - Barbara Vine
Silver: Presumed Innocent - Scott Turow
1986 Gold: Live Flesh - Ruth Rendell
Silver: A Taste for DeathPD James
1985 Gold: Monkey Puzzle - Paula Gosling
Silver: Last Seen Alive - Dorothy Simpson
1984 Gold: The Twelfth Juror - B.M.Gill
Silver: The Tree of Hands Ruth Rendell
1983 Gold: Accidental Crimes - John Hutton
Silver: The Papers of Tony Veitch - William McIlvanney
1982 Gold: The False Inspector Dew - Peter Lovesey
Silver: Ritual Murder - ST Haymon
1981 Gold: Gorky Park - Martin Cruz Smith
Silver: The Dead of Jericho - Colin Dexter
1980 Gold: The Murder of the Maharajah - H.R.F.Keating
Silver: Monk's Hood - Ellis Peters
1979 Gold: Whip Hand - Dick Francis
Silver: Service of all the Dead - Colin Dexter
1978 Gold: The Chelsea Murders - Lionel Davidson
Silver: Waxwork - Peter Lovesey
1977 Gold: The Honourable Schoolboy - John le Carré
Silver: Laidlaw - William McIlvanney
1976 Gold: A Demon in my View - Ruth Rendell
Silver: Rogue Eagle - James McClure
1975 Gold: The Seven per cent solution - Nicholas Meyer
Silver: The Black Tower - PD James
1974 Gold: Other Paths to Glory - Anthony Price
Silver: The Grosvenor Square Goodbye - Francis Clifford
1973 Gold: The Defection of A.J.Lewinter - Robert Littell
Silver: A Coffin for Pandora - Gwendoline Butler
1972 Gold: The Levanter - Eric Ambler
Silver: The Rainbird Pattern - Victor Canning
1971 Gold: The Steam Pig - James McClure
Silver: Shroud for a Nightingale - PD James
1970 Gold: Young Man I Think You're Dying - Joan Fleming
Silver: The Labyrinth Makers - Anthony Price
1969 Gold: A Pride of Heroes - Peter Dickinson
Silver: Another Way of Dying - Francis Clifford
The CWA Gold Dagger for Fiction
1968: Skin Deep (The Glass-sided Ants' Nest) - Peter Dickinson
1967: Murder Against the Grain - Emma Lathen
1966: A Long Way to Shiloh - Lionel Davidson
1965: The Far Side of the Dollar - Ross Macdonald
1964: The Perfect Murder - H.R.F.Keating
1963: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - John le Carre
1962: When I Grow Rich - Joan Fleming
1961: The Spoilt Kill - Mary Kelly
1960: The Night of Wenceslas - Lionel Davidson
Crossed Red Herring Awards
1959: Passage of Arms - Eric Ambler
1958: Someone from the Past - Margot Bennett
1957: The Colour of Murder - Julian Symons
1956: The Second Man - Edward Grierson
1955: The Little Walls - Winston Graham