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Royal Honour for Dick de Boer

24 May 2011

On Monday 23 May 2011, Professor D.E.H. (Dick) de Boer was presented with a Royal Honour by Peter Rehwinkel, Mayor of Groningen. De Boer is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Groningen and director of the Netherlands Research School for Medieval Studies. In addition, he is chair of the Institute for the History of the Netherlands. The honour - Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau - has been presented to mark his retirement. 

In addition to his extensive duties as a professor, De Boer (The Hague, 1947) has shown unflagging energy in his endeavours to publicize the results of academic historical research to a wider audience at home and abroad. His talent for imparting the social importance of historical knowledge and infecting others with his enthusiasm for the past is unique. This is evident from his exceptional contributions made to his field in the national and international arena, for which he never shirked the more administrative and organizational duties. He has, for example, given the Netherlands Research School for Medieval Studies a new lease of life during his time there as director. As chair of the Institute for the History of the Netherlands, he was able to secure leading projects, such as the digitization and online publishing of the Letters of William of Orange.


De Boer recognized the importance of internationalization to universities, and to a relatively small field like Medieval History in particular, at an early stage of his career. He founded and served as managing director of CARMEN (The Co-operative for the Advancement of Research through a Medieval European Network), and spent many years fulfilling a central position in the Programming Committee of the International Medieval Congress in Leeds (UK). He also managed to acquire large amounts of project funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.
For a period of forty years, De Boer was an enthusiastic and dedicated lecturer, who knew how to inspire pupils and students with a love of history (Medieval or otherwise). He also devised several teaching methods for primary, secondary and higher education, and taught refresher courses for history teachers.

Regional history

De Boer did not only focus on his fellow professionals; he was also keen to promote his field to a wider audience. In the 1980s for instance, he became heavily involved in regional history when he wrote accounts of the history of various cities and provinces including Dordrecht, Leiden and Holland. He was a member of the editorial board of ‘Spieghel Historiael/Geschiedenis Magazine’ for a staggering 25 years. The compilation of the ‘Digitaal Oorkondenboek Groningen en Drenthe’ [Cartulary for Groningen and Drenthe] was a daring exploit, for which he managed to inspire many others. Partly thanks to his efforts, some 34,000 deeds and records are now online and available to all ( Work is currently in progress to expand the database with archive material from neighbouring provinces and German states.
Over the past few years, he has been tireless in his efforts to resurrect the neglected history of the Hanse, as demonstrated by various internationalization projects and the ensuing publications on local, national and international themes, as well as countless exhibition projects and initiatives to establish a Hanse portal. In short, after many years of silence, the Hanse has been reinstated on the historical map. A phenomenon that was threatened with extinction, its only memory being a mention in the name of an institution, has now risen from the ashes.

Visual history

De Boer’s interest in the visual side of the past, and representing historical knowledge in imagery, is another remarkable aspect of his talents. During his career, he helped to compile many exhibitions at home and abroad, was part of the think-tank for the development of the Groninger Forum and had a seat on the Supervisory Board for the Groninger Museum.
Impartially bestowing his historical attention on small as well as large parties (and thereby encouraging the smaller parties to ‘grow’) is typical of De Boer. Thanks to his intervention, in 2006 Museum Het Hogeland in Warffum was able to stage an exhibition about Bosch (an island that disappeared in the Wadden Sea). The exhibition was compiled in association with the Stichting Verdronken Geschiedenis [Flooded History Foundation], an initiative that preceded the current Wadden Academy in Leeuwarden.
However, the most succinct example of De Boer’s relationship with imagery is his extensive work on history documentaries and other TV programmes, such as in recent years, the Teleac broadcast ‘Verre Verwanten’, a programme for which De Boer not only created the concept, but in which he also featured as 'narrator'.


In his personal life, Dick de Boer is passionate about music, both as musician and connoisseur. Since moving to the north of the Netherlands in 1992, he has played violin and viola in the Groninger Mozart Ensemble. This symphony orchestra with choir has grown in both scope and popularity largely thanks to his efforts. In addition to the rehearsal weekends he organized, De Boer also arranged tours in the Netherlands and abroad, whereby renowned musicians performed as solo artistes.

Note for the press

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Last modified:13 March 2020 01.56 a.m.
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