Peter R.L. Brown (1935), United States

Peter R.L. Brown was awarded the Amsterdam Prize for History for his research on the transition from paganism to Christianity in late Antiquity.

Peter BrownPeter R. L. Brown received the prize in recognition of the fact that his work is not afraid to challenge conventional historical wisdom. In a series of brilliant, highly readable studies, Peter Brown has subtly described the gradual transition from paganism to Christianity in late Antiquity. Brown has shown an uncanny knack for bringing to light aspects of this process which have been largely ignored. As an historian Brown oversteps the traditional chronological boundaries between the late Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages in his search for what distinguished and what united pagans and Christians, and for the answers to the questions as to how and why the pagan world of ancient Rome was gradually transformed into the Christian. Professor Brown has a long list of publications to his credit, many of which have been translated into other languages. His masterful biography of the great Latin doctor of the Church St Augustine, which appeared in 1967, was followed three years later by his brilliant World of Late Antiquity. From Marcus Aurelius to Mohammed. Brown's Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity. Towards a Christian Empire (1992) is a compelling account of how the Church adopted the pagan ideal of co-operation between the urban elite and the central imperial government under the guise of Christianity.

Professor Brown's research engages and informs the educated layman as effectively as it does the professional scholar. His studies of a subject of no less weight than the Christian conversion of Europe are as intellectually profound as they are pleasurable to read.


Peter R.L. Brown was born in Dublin in 1935. He received his university training at New College, Oxford (MA) and remained at Oxford until 1975, as Fellow of All Souls (1956-1975), as Lecturer in Late Roman and Early Byzantine History (1970-1973) and as Reader with the same teaching responsibilities (1973-1975). From 1975 until 1976 he was Professor of History and Classics at Royal Holloway College, University of London. In 1978 he left England to become Professor of History and Classics at Berkeley (1975-1986). In 1986 he moved to Princeton University and in 1991 Brown was appointed foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.