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Warren C. Brown

Professor of History
Warren Brown headshot
Contact information for Warren C. Brown
Contact Method Value
Mail Code: MC 101-40
Office: 204 Dabney Hall
Phone: 626-395-4482
Administrative Assistant:
B.S., Tufts University, 1985; M.A., University of Cincinnati, 1993; Ph.D., University of California (Los Angeles), 1997. Assistant Professor, Caltech 1997-2003; Associate Professor, 2003-10; Professor, 2010-.

Research Interests

Social History of Early Medieval Europe; Conflict Resolution; Social and Institutional Memory


Literature and History; Social Science History


Warren Brown is interested in the social and political history of medieval Europe. His research follows two tracks. The first concerns violence in medieval Europe. His book Violence in Medieval Europe (Longman, 2011) examines the societal, cultural, and legal norms that governed personal violence between the years 600 and 1500. In it, he describes the shifting of those norms, which people used to legitimize or delegitimize violent acts. Drawing on current literature on social norms in anthropology and political science, Brown tracks in particular how norms of violence competed with one another and achieved dominance or disappeared—until the norms associated with a central authority's monopoly of violence began to prevail. He is currently exploring how terror was used in the Middle Ages to achieve specific goals and how such use may inform the understanding of terrorism today.

Brown's second research track involves the use of written documents in Europe before the turn of the first millennium. Written documents in this period have traditionally been considered the domain of the Christian clergy; Brown is interested in how lay people used documents, beyond their interactions with churches or monasteries. His ongoing interest in studying the sources of history themselves led him to become a charter member of a group of scholars in North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe who investigate evidence of people using documents from outside the church. He has independently contributed three articles that reach positive conclusions about lay document use in Europe north of the Alps in the eighth and ninth centuries. Together, the group has published their work in the book Documentary Culture and the Laity in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2013). Brown is currently working on a book that uses lay documents to explore the social history of the laity in the early Middle Ages.

In 2013, Brown received a Donald Bullough Fellowship in Medieval History at the Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of St. Andrews. He received an award for excellence in teaching at Caltech in 2006 and 2003.

Selected Awards

2013 Donald Bullough Fellowship in Mediaeval History, Institute of Mediaeval Studies, University of St. Andrews. 2003, 2006 Excellence in Teaching Award, Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology (ASCIT).

Professional Societies

Editor, the Medieval World Series, Routledge Press.

Selected Publications


Beyond the Monastery Walls: Lay Men and Women in Early Medieval Legal Formularies (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)

With Marios Costambeys, Matthew Innes, and Adam J. Kosto, Documentary Culture and the Laity in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Violence in Medieval Europe, Longman Press, 2011.

With Piotr Górecki, Conflict in Medieval Europe: Changing Perspectives on Society and Culture, Ashgate Press, 2003.

Unjust Seizure: Conflict, Interest, and Authority in an Early Medieval Society, Cornell University Press, 2001.


"Terrorism, History, and Periodization," in The Cambridge History of Terrorism (Cambridge, 2021)

"Instrumental Terror in Medieval Europe" in the Oxford Handbook of the History of Terrorism (Oxford University Press, 2014).

"On the gesta municipalia and the public validation of documents in Frankish Europe," Speculum 87.2 (April 2012), pp. 345-75.

"Conflict, letters, and personal relationships in the Carolingian formula collections," The Law and History Review, vol. 25 nr. 2, Summer 2007, pp. 323-44.

"When documents are destroyed or lost: lay people and archives in the early Middle Ages," Early Medieval Europe 11 no. 4 (2002), pp. 337-366.

 "Charters as weapons. On the role played by early medieval dispute records in the disputes they record," Journal of Medieval History, v. 28 no. 3 (September 2002), pp. 227-248.