Peter Brown
Doctor of Humane Letters

Peter Robert Lamont Brown, currently the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University, is considered the world’s foremost historian of the period known as Late Antiquity (approximately 250 to 850 CE, including the later years of the Roman Empire).

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1935 and educated at New College, Oxford, Brown taught at Oxford, at the University of London and at the University of California, Berkeley, before arriving at Princeton in 1983. He made a name for himself in 1967 with his first book, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, and his subsequent books include, among others, The World of Late Antiquity (1971); The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (1981); The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (1988); The Rise of Western Christendom (1996); and Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire (2002). These works have helped to popularize the study of Late Antiquity and have challenged preceding historians’ notion of the period as a time of decadence. Rather, Brown argues in his famously vivid prose, it was a time of great cultural innovation.

The prolific historian, brilliant lecturer and esteemed professor, who reads 15 languages, has been honored with a 1982 MacArthur Fellowship and a 2001 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award for scholarship in the humanities. Last year, he was co-winner of the Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Humanity.

Hear Brown’s talk, “Intertwined Pasts,” on our audio page, Conversations with Honored Guests.