The Revolt of 1857 - The First War of Independence Against the British


The Revolt of 1857–1859 was a massive but failed revolt against the British East India Company's control in India, which served as the British crown's sovereign power.

The Revolt:

  • The British East India Company was facing organized resistance for the first time through this.
  • Although it started as a revolt by the soldiers of the British East India Company, the general populace eventually joined in.
  • There are various titles for the revolt, including the First War of Independence, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, the Sepoy Mutiny (by British Historians), the Indian Mutiny, and the Great Rebellion (by Indian Historians) (by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar).

The Revolt's Causes:

  • Social and Religious Causes
  • The explosive growth of Western Civilisation in India caused widespread issues throughout the country.
  • An act passed in 1850 altered Hindu inheritance law, allowing a Hindu who converted to Christianity to inherit his ancestral property.
  • People believed the government intended to convert Indians to Christianity.
  • The legalisation of widow remarriage and the prohibition of practises such as sati and female infanticide were viewed as threats to the established social structure.
  • Introducing western education methods directly challenged Hindu and Muslim orthodoxy.
  • The introduction of railways and telegraphs was also met with skepticism.

  • Political Cause
  • The political causes of the revolt were the British policy of expansion through the Doctrine of Lapse and direct annexation.
  • A large number of Indian rulers and chiefs were deposed, instilling fear in the minds of other ruling families who feared a similar fate.
  • Rani Lakshmi Bai's adopted son was not allowed to sit on the throne of Jhansi.
  • The Doctrine of Lapse was used to annexe Satara, Nagpur, and Jhansi.
  • Also annexed were Jaitpur, Sambalpur, and Udaipur.
  • Lord Dalhousie's annexation of Awadh under the pretext of maladministration laid off thousands of nobles, officials, retainers, and soldiers. This measure turned Awadh, a loyal state, into a hotbed of dissatisfaction and intrigue.

  • Economic Cause
  • Peasants and zamindars in rural areas were outraged by the Company's high land taxes and strict revenue collection methods.
  • Many of these groups were unable to meet the high revenue demands and repay their loans to money lenders, eventually losing their long-held lands.
  • Because many sepoys belonged to the peasantry and had family ties in villages, the peasants' grievances affected them as well.
  • Following the Industrial Revolution in England, an influx of British manufactured goods into India devastated industries, particularly India's textile industry.
  • Indian handicraft industries had to compete with low-cost British machine-made goods.

  • Military Motives
  • The Revolt of 1857 started with a sepoy mutiny: Indian sepoys made up more than 87% of British troops in India but were considered inferior to British soldiers.
  • A European sepoy of the same rank was paid more than an Indian sepoy.
  • They were compelled to serve in locations far from their homes.
  • Lord Canning issued the General Services Enlistment Act in 1856, requiring sepoys to be ready to serve even in British territory across the sea.

Important Leaders in the 1857 Revolt:

  • Delhi - Bahadur Shah II, General Bakht Khan
  • Lucknow - Begum Hazrat Mahal, Birjis Qadir, Ahmadullah
  • Kanpur - Nana Sahib, Rao Sahib, Tantia Tope, Azimullah Khan
  • Bihar - Kunwar Singh, Amar Singh
  • Jhansi - Rani Laxmibai
  • Rajasthan - Jaidayal Singh and Hardayal Singh
  • Jhansi - Rani Laxmibai
  • Farrukhabad -Tufzal Hasan Khan
  • Assam - Kandapareshwar Singh, Maniram Dutta Baruah
  • Orissa - Surendra Shahi, Ujjwal Shahi

The Revolt and Suppression:

The 1857 Revolt lasted more than a year. By the middle of 1858, it had been defeated.

Lord Canning declared peace on July 8, 1858, fourteen months after the outbreak in Meerut.

Impact of Revolt of 1857:

The Indian uprising of 1857 rocked the British East India Company to its core and exposed its inability to manage the country's government. The Government of India Act, which was passed in 1858 and ended the rule of the British East India Company, had the most effect since it gave the British government the authority to rule India directly through agents.

Causes:  Revolt of 1857 Failure:

The revolt was ultimately unsuccessful in driving the British out of the country due to a number of factors.

  • There was no clear leader among the sepoys; instead, there were several. They also lacked a cohesive plan for directing the foreigners.
  • Indian rulers who supported the revolt had no plans for the country after the British had been defeated.
  • The revolt primarily affected northern India. The presidencies of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras were largely unaffected.

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