Nancy Hatch Dupree (October 3, 1927 – September 10, 2017) was an American historian whose work primarily focused on the history of modern Afghanistan. She was the director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University and author of five books that she compiled while studying the history of Afghanistan from 1962 until the late 1970s, writing about tourism and history of Kabul, Bamiyan and Balkh. She was fondly called the "grandmother of Afghanistan", having spent more of her life there or with Afghans abroad.
October 3, 1927
Cooperstown, New York, U.S.A
September 10, 2017 (aged 89)|
|Resting place||Kabul, Afghanistan|
Barnard College (B.A)|
Columbia University (M.A)
|Title||Director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University|
|Spouse(s)||Louis Dupree (1966-1989; his death)|
Nancy Dupree was born as Nancy Hatch in Cooperstown, New York. She spent most of her childhood in India. Her parents were working in Kerala, where her father was an adviser to the Maharaja of Travancore, Kerala. Her mother, a Broadway actress, was drawn to Indian art and theatrical dance forms and embarked on the first PhD on Kathakali by a foreign scholar.
Hatch graduated from Barnard College in 1949. She then went to Columbia University to study Chinese. She did her mastery in Chinese Art at Columbia University, but her life was linked to southern Asia in an inexorable manner. First married to an American intelligence officer, Alan D. Wolfe, posted in what was then called Ceylon, she later moved with her husband to Iraq, then Pakistan, and finally Afghanistan in 1962.
Dupree first arrived in Afghanistan in 1962 as a diplomat's wife. Shortly after she wrote the first guide in English to the Bamiyan Buddhas. Several years later, she met Louis Duprée, who was a renowned archaeologist and scholar of Afghan culture and history. The two fell in love and got married after divorcing their former spouses, marrying in the Bagh-e Bala Palace in 1966.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Nancy was forced to leave the country, while Louis remained. Rather than return to the United States, she moved to a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. Louis was eventually arrested under suspicion of working for the Central Intelligence Agency as a spy. He then joined Nancy in Peshawar. While in the refugee camp, Nancy realized the potential for the loss of unique documents about Afghanistan to be lost or destroyed forever. In order to preserve these works and to teach them to a new generation, she and Louis formed the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR). They began to collect both government and non-government documents that related to the country's history, culture, the Soviet-Afghan War, the Mujahedeen, and the Taliban. Nancy said that in the looting that began after the Soviet invasion, many priceless books were sold to be used for fuel. A large number of books were also sold by weight to be used to wrap food. According to The Economist, "her networking prowess was so notorious that she was once approached, to see if she could help with permits to dig tunnels in Kabul, by the young Osama bin Laden."
After the Coalition forces moved into Afghanistan in 2001, Nancy and Louis did not immediately move back, since Louis passed away in 1989. They were concerned for their own safety and that of ACBAR's collection, which by 1999 consisted of 7,739 titles written in Pashto, Dari (Persian), French, German, Norwegian, and Swedish. In 2005, Nancy moved back to Kabul and worked with the Afghan government to find a place to house ACBAR's collection. The collection was moved to Kabul University and the name was changed to the Afghan Collection at Kabul University. A $2 million building was completed to house the collection in 2012.
In 2007, Nancy Hatch Dupree established the Louis and Nancy Hatch Dupree Foundation. It is a charitable organization that promotes research and raises awareness of the history and culture of Afghanistan. In addition, this organization also preserves Afghan cultural heritage. The organization's primary goal is to ensure the sustainability of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU). Programs offer Afghans from all walks of life, especially youth, incentives to acquire and employ information that will help them address the challenges of rebuilding their nation.
The organization has been able to achieve its overall goal by purchasing books and providing them to the schools in parts of Afghanistan that have never had a library. Due to regional instability, the organization has not been able to achieve all of its goals as an active NGO.
Dupree died after battling an illness in Kabul, Afghanistan, at the age of 89. President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah offered their condolences. Ghani added that Nancy "considered Afghanistan her real home and willed to be buried in Kabul next to the tomb of her husband." Former President Hamid Karzai said "Nancy Dupree, a loving daughter of Afghanistan, is no more with us. May God bless her soul." and "Afghanistan will keep her in affectionate memory."