Dr Derek Hopwood OBE, 27 June 1933 – 23 March 2020

Derek Hopwood passed away on Monday 23 March 2020.

Derek had an association with Oxford throughout his adult life. He came up to Brasenose College in the mid-1950s to read Arabic.  Following a two year posting in Libya on national service, he returned to Oxford in 1962 to pursue his doctorate under the supervision of Albert Hourani.  While still at Brasenose, he completed his thesis in just three years.  The thesis was subsequently published by Oxford University Press in 1969 under the title The Russian presence in Syria and Palestine, 1843-1914 and was to remain the standard work on the subject. 

After he completed his thesis, Derek was recruited by Albert Hourani to oversee the development of the Middle East Centre Library at St Antony’s and he became its Library Fellow in 1966. He formally joined St Antony’s as a Research Fellow in 1970 before his election to a Faculty Fellowship in 1972.  He continued to hold the posts of University Lecturer (subsequently promoted to Reader) in Modern Middle Eastern Studies and Middle East Bibliographer until his retirement in 2000. 

Derek held many key posts in the College during his career. He served as Director of the Middle East Centre for fifteen years between 1974-98.  He was Dean between 1979-1986, Dean of Degrees 1979-2000 and Sub Warden 1993-95. He was also briefly Bursar in 1997.

Beyond Oxford, Derek was Secretary and Chairman of the Middle East Libraries Committee between 1967-85, President Melcom International between 1981-91, Secretary and President of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies between 1973-89 and President of the European Association of Middle Eastern Studies between 1992-97. Quite rightly, he was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to Middle Eastern Studies.

In the course of a long and productive research career, Derek published seven single authored books and seven edited volumes, including two volumes of the Middle East Centre’s celebrated Antonius Lectures.  His final book, Islam’s Renewal: Reform or Revolt?  was published in 2018 in the St Antony’s/Palgrave series. His intellectual legacy also lives on through the many doctoral students he supervised.

All those who knew Derek will remember him as a wonderfully warm and generous colleague as well as a supremely gifted academic, linguist and musician. He will be much missed by us all.

Roger Goodman, Warden

Where next?