The Judgment of the Sword. The Tale of the Kabul Tragedy, and of the Part Played Therein by Major Eldred Pottinger, the Hero of Herat


Maud Diver (1867–1945) was a British Indian author who was a friend and contemporary of Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) and who, like Kipling, primarily wrote about Englishmen in India and their encounters with the people and cultures of the East. The Judgment of the Sword is one of two books Diver wrote about Eldred Pottinger (1811–43), an army officer in the East India Company. The other volume, The Hero of Herat, is a popular biography recounting Pottinger’s 1837 involvement in the Persian siege of Herat, and his much-praised role in helping to end it. In the volume presented here, Pottinger is portrayed in a tragic but dignified tone. The volume, comprising six “books,” is a “dramatized history” that records the disastrous events surrounding the 1841 Afghan uprising against the British and their protégé Shah Shuja during the First Anglo-Afghan War. The volume focuses on Pottinger’s heavy involvement in the fighting and diplomacy during the uprising. After his residence in Laghman was attacked, Pottinger fled to the garrison town of Charikar, where a Gurkha force of the British Indian army supporting Shah Shuja was stationed. The rebels besieged the Gurkhas, killing the commander and forcing the troops to evacuate. Severely wounded, Pottinger escaped with the rest of the troops to Kabul, where eight days after their arrival, Afghan commander Akbar Khan murdered British envoy Sir William Macnaghten. Pottinger replaced Macnaghten in dire circumstances. He negotiated the British Indian withdrawal from Kabul with Akbar, but the latter detained him as one of three hostages. Pottinger thus escaped the massacre in which the retreating force was destroyed. He returned to India in 1842 with the army of Major General George Pollock, one of two forces that the British had sent to retaliate against the Afghans. Pottinger died the following year, while on a visit to Hong Kong.

Last updated: December 19, 2017