Spotlight on Michael Brown
August 4, 2014 Leave a comment
Born and raised as a man of Kent but with mixed Scottish and New Zealand parentage, Michael Brown first came to the University of St Andrews as an undergraduate in 1983. After taking his MA (1987) and PhD (1991) at this hallowed institution he was released into the community and embarked upon a tour of the British Isles. He held posts at the University of Aberystwyth (1993), Strathclyde (1994), University College Dublin (1995) and Aberdeen University (1996) moving on before he could do too much damage. Whilst employed by Aberdeen, Michael resided in Cork, which is perhaps the longest possible academic commute in these islands. He returned to St Andrews in 1997 as a lecturer in Scottish History, was made reader in 2004 and professor in 2014.
Michael’s research interests reflect the itinerant nature of his career path. After his PhD on crown-magnate relations in the personal reign of James I of Scotland (1424-1437), which he turned into a political biography of the same pivotal, if unpleasant, ruler, James I, published in 1994. Michael next wrote a study of The Black Douglases: War and Lordship in Scotland 1306-1455 in 1998. He then published The Wars of Scotland 1214-1371, volume four of the New Edinburgh History of Scotland in 2004. His recent publications have encompassed a wider geographical perspective. His book, Bannockburn: The Scottish Wars and the British Isles (2008) sought to demonstrate that the battle was an event of significance well beyond Scotland. This work linked in with interests which had begun when Michael worked at Aberystwyth on fourteenth-century Wales and on his awareness of Ireland as a distinct but related model for comparison with late medieval Scotland which developed from his spell living and teaching in the Irish Republic. Ultimately these strands came together in his recent book, Disunited Kingdoms: Peoples and Politics in the British Isles 1280-1460 (2013). This is a study of the way in which trends towards the creation of a single political hierarchy in the isles were reversed in the later middle ages and the distinct character of the four lands was entrenched in this period. After the activities of June, he is currently Bannockburned out.
Michael’s teaching reflects this interest in late Medieval Scotland and the British Isles. His module The Castle in Medieval Scotland 1100-1550 (ME3142) has long been popular, particularly for its away day which ploughs across central Scotland in search of majestic (and not so majestic) sites. He also teaches Age of Conquest: Edward I, Scotland and Wales (ME3304) and is launching a new module Kings and Rebels: Realms and Borderlands in the British Isles 1360-1420 (ME3312) which aims to bring out the contrast between arty kings and hairy wild men in far-flung parts of the isles. Michael is currently part of the Medieval St Andrews project which is creating an app which will allow visitors to navigate and obtain information the medieval sites of the city. Michael’s involvement in this is a matter of hilarity to those who know his inability to deal with anything more advanced than a tin opener and his role is solely on the information side of the project.
Michael lives in rural Fife with his wife, Margaret Connolly, who teaches in English and History, and their two children. His hobbies include looking for his errant border terrier, Archie, and driving his children around.