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Henry Mortimer Durand


Henry Mortimer Durand

Not to be confused with Henry Marion Durand.

Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, GCMG KCSI KCIE ICS (14 February 1850 – 8 June 1924) was a British diplomat and civil servant of colonial British India.


Born at Sehore, Bhopal, India, he was the son of Sir Henry Marion Durand, the Resident of Baroda and he was educated at Blackheath Proprietary School, and Tonbridge School.[1]


Durand entered the Indian Civil Service in 1873. During the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880) he was Political Secretary at Kabul. From 1884 to 1894, he was Foreign Secretary of India. Durand was appointed Minister plenipotentiary at Teheran in 1894 although despite being a Persian scholar and speaking the language fluently he made little impression either in Tehran or on his superiors in London. He left in 1900 by which time owing to the illness of his wife Ella he had withdrawn from social life and the legation was in a depressed and disorganised state. From 1900 to 1903 he served as British Ambassador to Spain, and from 1903-1906 as Ambassador to the United States of America. He was appointed a CSI in 1881[2] knighted a KCIE in 1888 and a KCSI in 1894[3] and appointed a GCMG in 1900.[4]

Durand Line

Main article: Durand Line

Mortimer Durand negotiated with Abdur Rahman Khan, the Amir of Afghanistan, the frontier between modern-day Pakistan the successor state of British India and Afghanistan. This line, the Durand Line, is named after him and remains the international boundary between Afghanistan and modern-day Pakistan, officially recognized by most nations but an ongoing point of contention between the two countries.

In 1893, Sir Mortimer Durand was deputed to Kabul by the government of British India for the purpose of settling an exchange of territory required by the demarcation of the boundary between northeastern Afghanistan and the Russian possessions, and in order to discuss with the Amir Abdur Rahman Khan other pending questions. The Amir showed his usual ability in diplomatic argument, his tenacity where his own views or claims were in debate, with a sure underlying insight into the real situation.

In 1893 a Royal Commission was established to demarcate the boundary between Afghanistan and the British-governed India. The two parties camped at Parachinar, now part of FATA Pakistan, near Khost Afghanistan. From the British side the camp was attended by Mortimer Durand and Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum, the Political Agent for Khyber. The Afghans were represented by Sahibzada Abdul Latif and Governor Sardar Shireendil Khan representing Amir Abdur Rahman Khan.[5]

The territorial exchanges were amicably agreed upon; the relations between the British Indian and Afghan governments, as previously arranged, were confirmed.

Durand died at Polden, Somerset, England, in 1924. He is buried in Dera Ismail Khan, a major city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

Literary works

From 1906, after his return to England, he devoted his time to writing.

He also published the biography of his father, General Henry Marion Durand (1812–1871), and had ambitions as a novelist--often with his wife, Lady E. R. Durand (1852–1913), as a co-author. Some of his publications are:

  • An Autumn Tour in Western Persia (1902)
  • Nadir Shah: An Historical Novel (1908)
  • The Life of Field-Marshal Sir George White, V.C. (1915)

See also

  • Durand Cup - a football tournament started by Mortimer Durand at Simla in 1888.


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