Prof. Dr. Boudewijn Sirks


Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Room: 2.004
Niebuhrstraße 5
53113 Bonn

Foto-Boudewijn Sirks.jpg
© Boudewijn Sirks

Academic Profile

Boudewijn Sirks studied law, philosophy and theology at the universities of Leiden and Amsterdam, and worked in the Netherlands until 1998, when he was appointed professor in private law and legal history at the Johann Wolfgang Universität in Frankfurt am Main. In 2006 he moved to Oxford to become the Regius Professoir of Civil Law, from which chair he emerited in 2014. He is a corresponding member of the Dutch Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences and a vice-president of the Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana. His research interest are legal history (Roman law in all periods of its application, particularly in the 18th century in the Supreme Court of Holland, Zeeland and West-Vriesland) and social and economic aspects of life in as far as structured in legal institutions. The areas covered are Europe and the former Dutch Indies. Further, his research includes the Theodosian Code as source of Roman law.

The present research will be on the forms of dependency we find in Gaul and Italy in the 6th and 7th century AD, primarily that of the coloni, but also other forms. There is mention of freed people next to coloni who nevertheless are also bound, to a plot of land, a church or in another way. There seem to exist complicated forms of dependency, which may not always have been connected with land. I intend to examine the relevant sources which provide references to these dependencies, primarily the legal ones like the Formulae in Gaul, further the letters of Pope Gregory the Great (ca. 540–604), and other sources. Are these coloni the same dependents we meet in the colonate of the 4th to 6th century in the Roman empire? Is the legal structure of their position the same? In my previous research I let that colonate stop at the moment the poll tax was abolished because this brought automatically an end to the Roman colonate, in the Visigothic Kingdom in 506, in the Ostrogothic Kingdom around 500 or earlier. Nevertheless we see a continuation of coloni so the question is now: what was the legal and social basis of this dependency? Is there a continuity with the Roman empire or are there influences from the invading peoples at work? And is there a link with the changes as Wickham suggests for the societies in the early Middle Ages?

This research is the follow-up of my previous research into the colonate in the Roman empire, and that again ties with earlier research into the Junian Latins, a particular species of freed people. The Roman colonate is a status where a person is bound to an estate and subjected to the owner of the estate. He is a free person, yet subjected to the owner as if in debenture. The duty to pay the poll tax is pivotal in this relationship. After some minor publications on that topic I have now finished a book on the colonate which will appear next year with the Cambridge University Press.

  • 2020. “Emanzipation als rite de passage”, ZSS romAbt. 137, 331–341.
  • 20219. “Misericordia in 5th-6th Century Gaul?”. In Koinonia 43, 633–640.
  • 2017. “L’aspetto fiscale del colonato dopo 438”. In Ravenna Capitale, 235–243.
  • 2017. “Law, Commerce and Finance”. In Trade, Commerce, and the State in the Roman World, edd A. Bowman, A. Wilson ed., Oxford, 53–115.
  • 2015. “Ius barbaricum modo romano vestitum?” In Ravenna Capitale 1, 323–336.
  • 2014. “Rome and the ‘barbarians’ in late antique Gaul”. In Atti dell’Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana 2011, Roma, 197–208.
  • 2012. “Did poverty lie at the origin of  the Colonate?”: Koinonia 36, 133–143.
  • 2008. “The Colonate in Justinian’s Reign”: Journal of Roman Studies XCVIII, 120–143.
  • 2001. “Saving Souls Through Adoption. A Legal Transplant in the Dutch East-Indies”. In Critical Studies in Ancient Law, Comparative Law & Legal History. Essays in Honour of Alan Watson, ed. J. Cairns, O.F. Robinson, Oxford/Portland OR, 365–378.
  • 1997. “Continuità nel colonato?”. In Terre, proprietari e contadini dell’impero romano. Dall’affitto agrario al colonato tardoantico, a cura di E. Lo Cascio, Roma, 163–184.
  • 1993. “Reconsidering the Roman Colonate”: Savigny Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte Rom. Abt. 110, 331–369.
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