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Durham University

Department of History

Staff Profile

Dr Alex Brown

Assistant Professor (Late Medieval and Early Modern British History) in the Department of History
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41079

Contact Dr Alex Brown (email at a.t.brown@durham.ac.uk)

About

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. 

Research Interests

  • The economic and social history of pre-industrial England
  • The development of agrarian capitalism
  • Social structure and social mobility
  • Rural and agricultural history

Research Supervision

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) 

Selected Publications

Authored book

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

Edited book

Journal Article

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Supervises