Willem (Wilhelmus, Theodorus, Maria) Frijhoff was born on May 31, 1942 in Zutphen, the city with which he would always have a special bond. After studying theology and philosophy at the major seminary of the diocese of Utrecht, he studied history and social sciences in Paris from 1966 to 1971. During his training at the famous École des hautes études en sciences sociales, he became acquainted with the historiography surrounding the French journal Annales, which focuses on the basic economic and social structures of historical developments instead of the eventful, mainly political history of the time.

In 1981 he obtained his doctorate in Tilburg with a dissertation entitled La Société néerlandaise et ses gradués, 1575-1814. A series of investigations into the statute of intellectuals. Using serial sources and quantitative methods, he investigated the numbers, origin and study direction of PhD students at Northern Dutch universities in the early modern period. One of the striking results was that these universities had no ‘religious coercion’. For example, Jewish students were admitted under special conditions. The dissertation was an example of the history of mentality that Frijhoff introduced into the Netherlands under the influence of the Annales School. His interdisciplinary approach to historical study and his erudition stood out. After several smaller appointments, he was appointed professor of Social History at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 1983, in particular the cultural and mental aspects of pre-industrial societies.

Frijhoff’s chair was based on the societal history concept of the Rotterdam history program. It soon became apparent that his role in the chair fitted in perfectly with the integrated and interdisciplinary approach of this field. Frijhoff also appeared to have a great attraction for PhD students and other researchers from the Netherlands and abroad. Recognition of his scientific research was evident from the fact that he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in 1990. Ten years later he joined the General Board of the KNAW, first as a member and from 2003 to 2007 as (vice) chairman of the Literature department. In addition to several honorary doctorates and prizes, he and François Héran received the 2010 Descartes-Huygens Prize from the KNAW for their mutual excellent research and contribution to French-Dutch cooperation.

Frijhoff’s research initially focused on historical processes of cultural transmission, forms of religious experience in early modern history and themes from historical anthropology such as magic, miracles and health. He practiced a kind of micro-history which resulted in 1995 in his monumental book by SUN publishers, Roads by Evert Willemsz. A Dutch orphan in search of himself, 1607-1647. Gradually the emphasis shifted more to collective memory, lieux de mémoire and heritage. This resulted in his chairmanship within NWO of the theme program ‘Cultural dynamics’ and the publication of the collection Dynamic heritage (2007). Frijhoff was also one of the authors of the Historical Atlas of Zutphen (2011), which he enjoyed very much.

In addition to teaching, research and an impressive scientific production, he manifested himself as a tireless administrator. From 1986 to 1989 he was dean of the Faculty of History and Art Sciences (FHK), the predecessor of the current ESHCC. The fact that Frijhoff was combative and – if necessary – prepared to take action became clear during the major cuts in higher education. The Selective Shrinkage and Growth (SKG) measure in 1986 in particular had far-reaching consequences for Erasmus University. As dean, Frijhoff played a crucial role in the resistance against the SGK operation. Without his persistent efforts – lobbying, petitions and demonstrations – there would probably have been no FHK / ESHCC.

After 14 years, Frijhoff left for the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. There he became professor of Earlyu Modern History, succeeding the well-known orthodox Protestant historian A.Th. van Deursen. He became dean again from 2002 until his retirement in 2007. But even then Frijhoff’s career was not over. He continued to publish and be actively involved in university teaching and research. After being a visiting professor at the Nijmegen Faculty of Arts for two years, Frijhoff returned to our faculty, now ESHCC, in 2010 as a special professor on the Erasmus exchange chair because of the G.Ph. Verhagen Foundation.

Within the History department, we were very pleased to have the trusted colleague back in our ranks. Frijhoff gave an inaugural lecture, gave a master’s course on cultural heritage and published his collection In the mist of history. About remembering, forgetting and the historical memory of society (2011) that was discussed by the Nijmegen medievalist Peter Raedts during a symposium of the Center for Historical Culture. In 2012 he participated as an assessor in the internal research review of the ESHCC.

In the new M-building, Frijhoff shared a room with some colleagues. His heart as a researcher, educator and administrator remained with our faculty and the department, as we have experienced until very recently. We will miss him and remember him with great respect. We wish his wife Sabine, daughter Laia, son in law Thomas and the grandchildren a lot of strength these days.