Peter Brown (historian)

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Peter Brown 2011

Peter Robert Lamont Brown (* 26. July 1935 in Dublin ) is a from Ireland derived historian , the last at the Princeton University taught.


Peter Brown came from a Protestant Irish family, attended Shrewsbury School in Shropshire from 1948, graduating in 1952, and after reading Michael Rostovtzeff's Roman social and economic history, decided to study history. 1953 to 1956 he studied at New College ( Oxford ). He began an ancient history dissertation with Arnaldo Momigliano (then at University College London), but did not complete it. Since he had won a Prize Fellowship from All Souls College, he stayed in Oxford, was from 1963 Research Fellow of All Souls College and from 1970 Senior Research Fellow. In 1970 he became Special Lecturer in the Faculty of Modern History at Oxford University and in 1973 Reader ( ad hominem ). In 1975 he became Professor of Modern History and Head of the History Faculty at Royal Holloway College, University of London. From 1978 to 1986 he was Professor of Ancient History and Classical Philology at the University of California, Berkeley , and from 1986 to 2011 Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University . There he received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching.

He was visiting professor at Berkeley (1975), Princeton (1983 to 1986), at the University of California, Los Angeles , in Toronto, Hungary, Iceland and in Italy.

Brown's main area of ​​work is the history of early Christianity and late antiquity in general . It is not least thanks to him that he made this epoch much more strongly than before 1970 a main field of work in ancient history research worldwide and also brought it closer to a wider audience. Brown is considered one of the best Augustine connoisseurs; his biography about Augustine of Hippo from 1967 (now in a revised version) is still a standard work.

Research on late antiquity

Brown's investigations into the late antique holy men and their social function were very influential . Especially with his (popular science) book The World of Late Antiquity , published in 1971 . From Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad Brown forced a process that led to a re-evaluation of late antiquity. This had long been seen as a period of decline and decadence under the sign of the fall of ancient civilization. In the English-speaking world, the interpretation of Edward Gibbon, who is considered a classic, was powerful in this regard . For Brown, on the other hand, the focus was on the transformation of the pagan - Roman world to a Christian empire or the Christian-Germanic successor states: not a world in decline, but a world in upheaval should be described. The focus was not so much on the western part of the river, but more on the Greek-influenced eastern river , which survived the migration period largely unscathed.

Brown has been very influential in recent research with this approach. However, in recent years there have also been increasing numbers of voices accusing Brown of overly idealizing the epoch and belittling the phenomena of crisis and decay, especially with regard to Westrom, especially since his interpretation of religious motives is sometimes controversial. Brown's approach was shaped too much by the optimism of progress of the 1960s. Even Averil Cameron , who herself advocates a reassessment of the epoch, warned as early as 1993: “'Late antiquity' is in danger of having become an exotic territory, populated by wild monks and excitable virgins and dominated by the clash of religions, mentalities, and lifestyles. "

Nonetheless, Brown's studies made a decisive contribution to re-evaluating the era of late antiquity and stimulating the research discussion.

Prizes and awards

In 1982 he received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation , also referred to as the Genius Award . In 1989 he was awarded for his book The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa Society . In 1994 he received the AH Heineken Prize for History . In 1999 Brown was awarded the Ausonius Prize . Together with the Indian historian Romila Thapar , he was awarded the Kluge Prize in 2008 for his life's work .

Brown received the Balzan Prize in 2011 for his research on early Christianity and late antiquity; for 2015 he was awarded the Dan David Prize .

He is a fellow of the British Academy (1971) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1979), an external member of the Accademia dei Lincei and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres . In 1988 he became a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and in 1995 a Resident Member of the American Philosophical Society . In 2010 he was elected an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy .

Selected works

  • Augustine of Hippo. A Biography (1967/2000). German: Augustinus von Hippo (1972, extended new edition 2000, ISBN 3-423-30759-5 )
  • The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750 (1971/1989). German: Worlds on the move. The time of late antiquity. From Mark Aurel to Mohammed (1980, ISBN 3-7857-0248-5 )
  • The Making of Late Antiquity (1978). German: The last pagans. A Brief History of Late Antiquity (1986, ISBN 3-8031-3528-1 )
  • The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (1981). German: The veneration of saints. Their Origin and Function in Latin Christianity (1991, ISBN 3-7462-0502-6 )
  • The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (1988). English: The chastity of angels. Sexual Renunciation, Asceticism and Physicality at the Beginning of Christianity (1991)
  • Power and persuasion in late antiquity. Towards a Christian empire (1992). Power and Rhetoric in Late Antiquity. The Road to a Christian Empire (1995, ISBN 3-423-04650-3 )
  • Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianization of the Roman world (1995). German: Authority and Holiness. Aspects of the Christianization of the Roman Empire (1998, ISBN 3-15-009709-6 )
  • The Rise of Western Christendom. Triumph and diversity, AD 200-1000 (1st ed. 1996; revised 2nd ed. 2003; heavily expanded 3rd ed. 2013, ISBN 978-1-118-30126-5 ). German: The emergence of Christian Europe (only 1st edition 1996, ISBN 3-406-40519-3 )
  • Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD (2012). German by Michael Bayer and Karin Schuler: The treasure in heaven. The rise of Christianity and the fall of the Roman Empire . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2017, ISBN 978-3-608-94849-3 .
  • The Ransom of the Soul (2015). German by Tobias Gabel: The price of eternal life. Christianity on the way to the Middle Ages. Philipp von Zabern, Darmstadt 2018, ISBN 978-3-8053-5150-8 .


Web links


  1. ^ Averil Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity . London and New York 1993, p. 6.
  2. ^ Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010-03-27
  3. German Archives for Research into the Middle Ages 67 (2011), p. 278. Retrieved on August 23, 2017 .