He went to Cambridge to read history and after graduation he was offered a teaching post at Durham University. He stayed there for his entire career and became a full professor in 1997.
Naturally enough he cut his teeth on the history of Lavendon, and the articles he wrote, originally for the Bucks Standard, have been preserved on a Wordpress site maintained by Nigel Stickells. It can be found here.
In addition to, or perhaps part of his professional studies, he published an article that effectively dated the foundation of StonyStratford. The Origins of Stony Stratford. records of Bucks,. Vol. XX Part3, 1977.
He was well-recognised and highly respected in his professional field but sadly he did not enjoy good health in his later years and died in 1913. I reproduce his Guardian obituary below.
Richard Britnell obituary
Economic historian who showed that commerce played an essential part in medieval life
Christopher Dyer, Thursday 26 December 2013
As we struggle with current financial crises, we might be tempted to look fondly back to times when economics were plain and simple. The middle ages are sometimes imagined as a time of self-sufficiency, when we grew our own crops and made our own bread. Richard Britnell, who has died at the age of 69 after a long illness, made his name as a historian by showing that trade and money played a central part in medieval life.
His book The Commercialisation of English Society, 1000-1500 (1993) set out clearly and comprehensively the view that change, most rapid in the 13th century, was driven by markets, urban growth and expanding trade. The inhabitants of even the remotest village and the most traditional feudal lord sold their surpluses of grain, wool and animals, and as money flowed, better methods of keeping accounts were introduced, farmers specialised in the most profitable crops, and industries multiplied in both country and town.
Those reading Richard had to banish from their minds a picture of slow-witted peasants concerned solely with routines of ploughing and planting. They were, for example, often making decisions about the sale and purchase of parcels of land.