Alex Brown works on the economic and social history of rural England across the medieval and early modern periods.
His thesis 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. This study focused upon the development of agrarian capitalism in the Durham countryside: a region uniquely characterised by a high concentration of ecclesiastical landownership and the precocious development of large-scale coal production.
This has been further developed by postdoctoral research examining the rise of the coal industry, the supposed gentrification of merchant wealth, and the experience of lay landowners like the Nevilles and Lumleys. Together, this forms the basis of his first monograph on Rural Society and Economic Change in County Durham: Recession and Recovery, c.1400-1640 published by Boydell and Brewer in 2015.
Alex won the New Researchers Prize at the annual conference of the Economic History Society in 2012 and held the EHS Postan Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research in 2012-13. He is currently an Addison Wheeler Fellow at Durham University, exploring downward social mobility and institutional memory in English rural society.
He co-organised ‘Agriculture and Industry: the Development of Rural England, 1000-1700’, a colloquium at the Institute of Historical Research, 1 July 2013, with James Bowen.
This resulted in the edited volume Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society (with University of Hertfordshire Press, 2016). He also co-organised 'Coping with Crisis: Re-Evaluating the Role of Crises in Economic and Social History', a three-day international conference at Durham University, 26-28 July 2013, with Andy Burn and Rob Doherty, which inspired a collection of essays on Crises in Economic and Social History: A Comparative Perspective (Boydell, 2015).
- The economic and social history of pre-industrial England
- The development of agrarian capitalism
- Social structure and social mobility
- Rural and agricultural history
- Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia
- Early Modern
- Social Cultures
- 2015 Rural Society and Economic Change in County Durham: Recession and Recovery, c.1400-1640, Boydell and Brewer.
Essays in edited volumes
- Forthcoming 'Church Leaseholders on the Dean and Chapter's Estates, 1540-1640: The Rise of a Rural Elite?', in Green, Adrian & Crosbie, Barbara (eds.), The Economy and Culture of North-East England, 1500-1800, Boydell and Brewer.
- 2016 'A Money Economy? Provisioning Durham Cathedral across the Dissolution, 1350-1600', in Brown, A. T. & Bowen, James P. (eds.), Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, 1300-1800: Revisiting Postan and Tawney, University of Hertfordshire Press.
- 2016 (co-authored with Bowen, James P.) 'Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society', in Brown, A. T. & Bowen, James P. (eds.), Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, 1300-1800: Revisiting Postan and Tawney, University of Hertfordshire Press.
- 2015 (co-authored with Burn, Andy & Doherty, Rob) 'Coping with Crisis: Understanding the Role of Crises in Economic and Social History', in Brown, A. T., Burn, Andy & Doherty, Rob (eds.), Crises in Economic and Social History: A Comparative Perspective, Boydell Press.
- 2015 'Economic Life', in Swanson, Robert (ed.), The Routledge History of Medieval Christianity, 1050-1500, Routledge, pp. 295-308
Journal papers: academic
- 2014 'Estate Management and Institutional Constraints in Pre-Industrial England: the Ecclesiastical Estates of Durham, c.1400-1640', Economic History Review 67, pp. 699-719
- 2010 'Surviving the mid-fifteenth-century recession Durham cathedral priory, 1400-1520', Northern history 47, pp. 209-231