Dr Alex Brown
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 staying 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.
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.
- The economic and social history of pre-industrial England
- The development of agrarian capitalism
- Social structure and social mobility
- Rural and agricultural history
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.
I am currently supervising:
Ryan Wicklund (Agricultural Management and Market Responsiveness in Medieval County Durham)
James Cronin (Historical Writing in Fifteenth-Century Benedictine Priories)
Department of History
- Britain and Continental Europe
- Early Modern
- Economic and Social History
- Landscape and Memory
HIST1641 - Decline and Crisis? Europe, 1300-1500
- HIST2922 - Conversations with History: Plague, Protest and Climate Change in an Age of Transition
- HIST2951 - Robin Hood
- MA Option Module: The Four Horsemen: Pestilence, War, Famine and Death
- Undergraduate and Postgraduate Dissertations
- Brown, A. T. (2015). Rural Society and Economic Change in County Durham: Recession and Recovery, c.1400-1640. Boydell & Brewer.
- Brown, A. T. & Bowen, James P. (2016). Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, 1300-1800: Revisiting Postan and Tawney. University of Hertfordshire Press.
- Brown, A. T. , Burn, Andy & Doherty, Rob (2015). Crises in Economic and Social History: A Comparative Perspective. People, Markets, Goods: Economies and Societies in History. Boydell Press.
Chapter in book
- Brown, A. T. (2018). Church Leaseholders on Durham Cathedral's Estate, 1540-1640: The Rise of a Rural Elite? In Economy and Culture in North-East England, 1500-1800. Green, Adrian & Crosbie, Barbara Boydell Press.
- Brown, A. T. (2016). A Money Economy? Provisioning Durham Cathedral across the Dissolution, 1350-1600. In Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, 1300-1800: Revisiting Postan and Tawney. Brown, A. T. & Bowen, James P. University of Hertfordshire Press.
- Brown, A. T. & Bowen, James P. (2016). Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society. In Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, 1300-1800: Revisiting Postan and Tawney. Brown, A. T. & Bowen, James P. University of Hertfordshire Press.
- Brown, A. T., Burn, Andy & Doherty, Rob (2015). Coping with Crisis: Understanding the Role of Crises in Economic and Social History. In Crises in Economic and Social History: A Comparative Perspective. Brown, A. T., Burn, Andy & Doherty, Rob Boydell Press.
- Brown, A. T. (2015). Economic Life. In The Routledge History of Medieval Christianity, 1050-1500. Swanson, Robert Routledge. 295-308
- Brown, A. T. (2019). The Fear of Downward Social Mobility in Late Medieval England. Journal of Medieval History 45(5): 597-617.
- Brown, A. T. (2014). Estate Management and Institutional Constraints in Pre-Industrial England: the Ecclesiastical Estates of Durham, c.1400-1640. Economic History Review 67(3): 699-719.
- Brown, A. T. (2010). Surviving the mid-fifteenth-century recession Durham cathedral priory, 1400-1520. Northern history 47(2): 209-231.