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Emeritus professor Hans Ankum died on 3 June 2019 at the age of 88. He studied at and was conferred a doctorate here, and was a professor of Roman Law from 1965 until his retirement in 1995. He took on a range of administrative roles, including dean, while mentoring and acting as the PhD supervisor of countless students. Former colleague Eric Pool has written an In Memoriam about the work, life and persona of Hans Ankum.

Hans Ankum passed away in his sleep on the night of 2 and 3 June 2019. From 1965 to 1995 he was Professor of Roman Law, Legal History and Legal Papyrology at our Faculty. That last Sunday he had attended both the matinee and the evening concert in his beloved Concertgebouw, and this typified the man he was. Apart from academia, music was the great love in his life and it was the wisdom of his father, a social democrat and the mayor of Zaandam, that was decisive for that pecking order. 

Rather than opting to study the piano at the conservatory, Ankum chose to study law at the UvA. There he developed into an extremely astute civilian, but his talent for legal history, for the study of classical antiquity and especially for Roman law also flourished. In Leiden, he also participated in years of privatissima (private lectures) on legal papyrology and medieval Roman law. After his graduation in Amsterdam, he continued his studies for several years at the Faculté de Droit in Paris. Those years were decisive for a lifelong predilection for the language and culture of France. This wide-ranging interest in the law also typified his later academic publications.

Cum Laude 

This immediately emerged when he was awarded his doctorate cum laude in 1962 with an exceptional double dissertation on the actiopauliana. The first part covered that topic in the Roman law of the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and the second part as part of modern Dutch law. Both texts were considered standard opuses on the topic and formed the basis of his appointment as Professor of Legal History, first in Leiden (1963-65), then in Amsterdam, and until 1968 still in combination with a part-time professorship in Leiden. At the time, you could still do that; following that year, academic appointments with a scope greater than 100 per centwere no longer allowed in the Netherlands. Ankum was an inspiring and enthusiastic lecturer; his teaching always managed to link Roman and Traditional Dutch law with modern private law doctrines. Yet Ankum's great renown in Europe and beyond was mainly due to two other qualities.

Academic output

First of all, there is his astounding academic output in French, German, Italian, and later also in English and Spanish. It covers a wide range of legal history, although in later years Ankum concentrated mainly on ancient Roman law. When he left the Faculty in 1995, his bibliography contained a total of 234 works; this number increased to well over three hundred in the ensuing years. The fact that it was not so much the quantity but the quality of his research that made an impression on his colleagues at home and abroad was reflected by the numerous invitations to give guest lectures and readings at many universities in Europe and beyond. The seven honorary doctorates granted to him by universities abroad also attest to this. In Amsterdam,many young researchers, mainly from Eastern Europe, took part in Roman law research projects that Ankum set up in collaboration with Romanists on his staff. At a time when Erasmus grants and university internationalisation were not yet the norm, he was one of the Faculty's pioneers in this respect. The many exchanges of students and lecturers, for example with the Ruhruniversität Bochum, also bear witness to this. And many lawyers who graduated from our Faculty and elsewhere still have vivid memories of the numerous study trips organised by Ankum to Oxford, Cambridge, London and even Turkey.

Wary of hierarchy

A second quality to which Hans Ankum owed his great renown and popularity abroad was his inspiring and engaging presence at the many legal-historical conferences he took part in. He was averse to hierarchy and professorial fanfare, also and especially vis-à-vis younger researchers from abroad who were just at the beginning of their careers. He even wanted them to address him by his first name, something that was often met with disapproval by some of his more authoritarian counterparts from abroad. He took little notice of their dismissive comments, however. 

Ankum was a font of information and support for many colleagues - both young and old, especially those from Eastern Europe before the fall of the wall - whom he assisted by providing hundreds of copies of the latest literature. It is these of Hans Ankum’s character traits, in particular, that his colleagues, his many doctoral students and former staff members will remember: his easygoing sociability, his lack of professional jealousy or even the slightest hint of academic manoeuvring, and his academic integrity, in which arguments based on intellectual egalitarianism were of prime importance. We should not allow the last few years of his life and inevitable decline to cast a pall over our memories of this exceptional personality.

Prof. Dr. Eric Pool