|Associate Professor (Late Medieval and Early Modern British History) in the Department of History||+44 (0) 191 33 41069|
|Fellow in the Durham Research Methods Centre|
|Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies|
I joined the department as Assistant Professor of Medieval Economic and Social History in January 2018, having first arrived as an undergraduate in 2005 and stayed on to complete my postgraduate and postdoctoral studies here. I work on the economic and social history of rural England across the medieval and early modern periods. My first book was a study of how rural society in Durham adapted to the economic problems of the fifteenth-century recession and how this affected their ability to respond to the inflation of the sixteenth century. This explored a range of different issues but especially the role of path dependency in shaping the size, rent and tenure of landholdings, three of the most crucial factors in the development of agrarian capitalism.
My current research explores the fear of downward social mobility in late medieval England. This challenges the image of medieval society as ‘an age of ambition’ by examining the ubiquitous fear of social decline, and demonstrating how this fear could contribute to the transformation of society: change can, after all, be wrought by people desperately trying to preserve the status quo. Previous studies have tended to focus upon the success of socially ambitious, generally male, careerists, and to ascribe to these entrepreneurial figures the most agency in the production of change. In contrast, my research reveals the important role played by gender and the life cycle in the articulation of this fear of downward mobility: marriage and old age in particular were moments when social decline seemed at its closest in medieval society.
I have also developed a particular interest in memory and the varied ways that individuals and institutions contested this. Some early modern enclosure riots, for example, were in part the culmination of centuries-long boundary disputes, whilst monks were especially pernicious in cultivating a distinctly myopic institutional memory of particular events. Given that so many of our records were created by specific institutions, it is all the more important that we understand how medieval people were themselves utilising these records, including both why they sought to preserve some documents and conveniently forget others.
- The economic and social history of pre-industrial England
- Rural and agricultural history
- Social structure and social mobility
- Institutional memory
I welcome enquiries from students interested in any aspect of medieval or early modern economic and social history, especially using the archives of Durham Priory and the Bishops of Durham.
- Brown, A. (2015). Rural Society and Economic Change in County Durham: Recession and Recovery, c.1400-1640. Boydell & Brewer
Chapter in book
- Brown, A. (2018). Church Leaseholders on Durham Cathedral's Estate, 1540-1640: The Rise of a Rural Elite?. In A. Green, & B. Crosbie (Eds.), Economy and Culture in North-East England, 1500-1800. Boydell Press
- Brown, A., & Bowen, J. P. (2016). Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society. In A. Brown, & J. P. Bowen (Eds.), Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, 1300-1800: Revisiting Postan and Tawney. University of Hertfordshire Press
- Brown, A. (2016). A Money Economy? Provisioning Durham Cathedral across the Dissolution, 1350-1600. In A. Brown, & J. P. Bowen (Eds.), Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, 1300-1800: Revisiting Postan and Tawney. University of Hertfordshire Press
- Brown, A. (2015). Economic Life. In R. Swanson (Ed.), The Routledge History of Medieval Christianity, 1050-1500 (295-308). Routledge
- Brown, A., Burn, A., & Doherty, R. (2015). Coping with Crisis: Understanding the Role of Crises in Economic and Social History. In A. Brown, A. Burn, & R. Doherty (Eds.), Crises in Economic and Social History: A Comparative Perspective. Boydell Press
- Brown, A., & Bowen, J. P. (Eds.). (2016). Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, 1300-1800: Revisiting Postan and Tawney. University of Hertfordshire Press
- Brown, A., Burn, A., & Doherty, R. (Eds.). (2015). Crises in Economic and Social History: A Comparative Perspective. Boydell Press
- Brown, A. (in press). Enclosure Riots on the Commons: Memory and Conflict at Lytham Priory, 1200-1540. The English Historical Review,
- Brown, A. T. (in press). Social Security in Late Medieval England: Corrodies in the Hospitals and Almshouses of Durham Priory. Historical Research,
- Brown, A., & Cox, B. (in press). Institutional Memory and Legal Conflict in the Old Borough of Durham, 1300-1450. Continuity and Change,
- Kendall, E. J., Brown, A. T., Doran, T., Gowland, R., & Cookson, R. (2021). Health inequality in Britain before 1750. SSM - Population Health, 16, Article 100957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100957
- Brown, A. (2019). The Fear of Downward Social Mobility in Late Medieval England. Journal of Medieval History, 45(5), 597-617. https://doi.org/10.1080/03044181.2019.1660206
- Brown, A. (2014). Estate Management and Institutional Constraints in Pre-Industrial England: the Ecclesiastical Estates of Durham, c.1400-1640. The Economic History Review, 67(3), 699-719. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0289.12036
- Brown, A. (2010). Surviving the mid-fifteenth-century recession : Durham cathedral priory, 1400-1520. Northern History, 47(2), 209-231. https://doi.org/10.1179/007817210x12738429860707