Peter Brown, the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, is credited with having created the field of study referred to as late antiquity (250-800 A.D.), the period during which Rome fell, the three major monotheistic religions took shape, and Christianity spread across Europe. A native of Ireland, Professor Brown earned his B.A. in history from Oxford University (1956), where he taught until 1975 as a Fellow of All Souls College. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1986 after teaching at the University of London and the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Brown’s primary interests are the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages and the rise of Christianity, and he has pursued them through investigations into such diverse topics as Roman rhetoric, the cult of the saints, the body and sexuality, and wealth and poverty. He is the author of a dozen books, including Augustine of Hippo (1967, 2000), The World of Late Antiquity (1971), The Cult of the Saints (1982), The Body and Society (1988), Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: towards a Christian Empire (1992), Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianization of the Roman World (1995), The Rise of Western Christendom (1996, 2003), and Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire (2002). Professor Brown has received honorary degrees from numerous universities, including the University of Chicago (1978), Trinity College, Dublin (1990), Wesleyan University (1993), Columbia University (2001), Harvard University (2002), and Kings College London (2008) . He has been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (1982), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989), and the Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award (2001). In 2008, he won the Kluge Prize of the Library of Congress.
Professor Brown is currently writing a book examining attitudes toward wealth and poverty in the later Roman Empire.
Professor Brown teaches courses on the history of late antiquity, Byzantium, and the Early Middle Ages, such as “Understanding the Dark Ages” and “Saints and Sinners in Early Byzantium.” He especially enjoys teaching the undergraduate survey course “Civilization of the Early Middle Ages” (History 343), which goes from the Emperor Augustus to Erik the Red’s discovery of Newfoundland, and which regularly enrolls 200 students. In 2000 he was awarded the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.