The Best Books to Read on Late Antiquity — a Five Books List
Not everyone who has chosen books for our site has given an interview (yet). If you’re a historian based in the US and know Peter and would like to interview him about the books he’s chosen above, please let us know. In the meantime, we present a snippet about Peter from our interview with historian Simon Yarrow:
About Peter Brown:
“To say that Peter Brown had a huge effect on me and my intellectual formation would merely repeat the testimony you’ll get from dozens and dozens of people more eloquent and intelligent than I am, who have also been hugely inspired by this man. It’s not really an exaggeration to say he invented a whole new historical period and place—the world of late antiquity—which historians have since been comfortably working away within and recognised that it’s here to stay. It’s being expanded upon, it’s being nuanced, but it’s still, recognisably, his world.
One of Peter Brown’s first books was a biography of Augustine in 1967. He then wrote a book about late antiquity in the early 1970s. He’s an example of someone who wears his learning very lightly.
What he brings that’s new is interdisciplinarity—before we even knew what that word meant—between history and anthropology, and history and psychology, as well as an openness to breaking down some of the partitions between different types and areas of historical studies.
For example, the Roman aristocracy are a subject here; the early church and the church fathers is a subject there; the late Roman state and socio-economic conditions of the late Roman world and the Mediterranean are another subject over here. There was very little attempt to synthesise these different areas of enquiry, and to understand how one might inform the other. This is something he’s done: he’s broken down those barriers that are, in some ways, an accident of our historiography.”
Two of Peter’s books are also recommended in our interview with historian Robin Lane Fox.
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