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Guide to the Frauke Heard-Bey and David Heard collection AD.MC.064

Archives and Special Collections, Library
New York University Abu Dhabi, C-2
P.O. 129188
Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi, Archives and Special Collections

Collection processed by Brad Bauer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on October 21, 2021
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical note

Frauke Heard-Bey, historian and political scientist, was born in Germany in 1941, the daughter of Erich Bey, Rear-Admiral in the German Navy, who was killed while in command of the battleship Scharnhorst, during a battle with British forces in the North Sea in 1943. With her mother and siblings, they settled in western Germany after World War II. Beginning in 1961, Heard-Bey studied history, political science and English at the University of Heidelberg, where she met a British student, David Heard, who would later become her husband. She later pursued her doctoral studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, where she received her doctorate in history in 1967, with her dissertation published in 1969 as "Hauptstadt und Staatsumwälzung Berlin 1919. Problematik und Scheitern der Rätebewegung in der Berliner Kommunalverwaltung (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer Verlag).

In September 1967, she married David Heard and moved to Abu Dhabi, in what was then the Trucial States, where he had been working as a petroleum engineer for several years. In 1969, she began working for the Centre for Documentation and Research, a department of the Emiri Court of Abu Dhabi, under the direction of Dr. Muhammad Morsy Abdullah, and based at Qasr al Hosn, the historic fortress and residence of the ruling Al Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi. At that time, as local archival documentation of Abu Dhabi and the other emirates was sparse, a program was developed to locate archival records pertaining to the Trucial States in the national archives of other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and others, and to microfilm or photocopy such records, so that the copies could be made available at the Centre. Heard-Bey, as a specialist in modern German history, was tasked with locating records in the Bundesarchiv in Bonn (at that time), as well as the records of the Auswärtiges Amt (German Foreign Ministry). She also worked with colleagues to coordinate efforts in other archives, to develop workflows for processing archives locally, and to perform research and assist with efforts in the historic preservation of the Qasr al Hosn complex.

In due time, however, she developed an expertise in the history of the Trucial States and the surrounding region, and began publishing in academic journals and presenting papers at conferences in Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America. In 1982 she published "From Trucial States to United Arab Emirates. A Society in Transition" (London: Longman), the first in-depth scholarly treatment of the history and society of this newly-formed country. The book has remained in print since then, with subsequent updated editions in 1996 (Longman) and 2004 (Dubai: Motivate Publishing), as well as Arabic (Motivate, 2007), French (Paris: Édition Karthala, 2009), and German (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2010). In 2017 she published a volume of her selected articles and scholarly papers titled "Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Region. Fifty Years of Transformation" (Berlin: Gerlach).

Heard-Bey retired from the Centre in 2008, by which time it had grown substantially, forming the basis of the present-day National Archives of the United Arab Emirates. She has remained active in a number of roles, holding membership in several scholarly societies, including the British Society for Middle East Studies (BRISMES) and the Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft Vorderer Orient (DAVO); as well as serving on the boards, or in leadership roles, of several local organizations, including the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), the German Business Council of Abu Dhabi (GeBCAD), and the Emirates Foundation. She was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz by German President Richard von Weizsäcker in 1994, and the Abu Dhabi Award from H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in 2007.

David Heard studied geology and engineering at Keele University, in Staffordshire, England, and shortly after completing his degree, arrived in Abu Dhabi in August 1963, to begin work as a petroleum engineer for Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company (ADCO). Initially he worked in the western desert, near Tarif, on what would become the first onshore oil producing sites in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. For much of his first two decades he worked in the field as an engineer, but beginning in 1980, he was based primarily in the city of Abu Dhabi, representing the interests of the company to the Government of Abu Dhabi. Upon retirement from the company in 2006, he served as a consultant to the Abu Dhabi Supreme Petroleum Council until 2011.

Since that time, he has been active researching and writing about the history of the development of the petroleum industry in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, publishing a series of books in succession, including "From Pearls to Oil: How the Oil Industry Came to the United Arab Emirates" (Dubai: Motivate, 2011); "Oil Men, Territorial Ambitions, and Political Agents: From Pearls to Oil in the Trucial States of the Gulf" (Berlin: Gerlach Press, 2019), and "Trucial Coast Diaries: On the Way from Pearls to Oil in the Trucial States of the Gulf" (Berlin: Gerlach Press, 2020).

Heard has been a long-time member of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs and the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), and was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1990, and the rank of Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000. He and his wife continue to live in Abu Dhabi, where they have lived continuously since the 1960s and raised their three children.

[Source: website "Frauke Heard Bey,"; LinkedIn profile for David Heard,; and article in The National, "Meet the British expat celebrating 50 years of living and working in Abu Dhabi," by James Langton and Bushra AlHashemi," November 20, 2013,, all accessed on 3 July 2021.]

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