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The Great Revolt of 1857:

Debut:The Great Revolt of 1857

  • Historians debated whether the 1857 episode was a mutiny or an insurrection.
  • Indian historians questioned why the people revolted before the sepoys and  punished the civilians if the mutiny was purely military.
  • Due to the annexation and reform efforts of Lord Dalhousie,  the eruption was triggered by various circumstances, including  grievances of princes, armies and people. The incident, in which cartridges were allegedly coated with lard  , triggered a revolt.
  • Edward John Thompson saw it as a war of independence, but VD Savarkar saw it as equivalent to the American War of Independence instead of a rebellion  .

Causes of the Revolt:

  • Lord Dalhousie‘s acquisition of Oudh and Jhansi under the Doctrine of Lapse and his later treatment of Nana Sahib was frustrating.  Discontent was further fuelled by the  confiscation  of nearly 21,000 estates by the Inam Commission.
  • The British imposed substantial land revenue, treating it as rent instead of tax, putting great pressure on the peasants. The price of agricultural products fell,  adding to the hardship for small farmers and tenants.
  • Muslims who had previously held high positions suffered during the British English schooling denied Muslim intellectuals their  rights, and the removal of Persian in the courts restricted their employment prospects.
  • The Act  of 1856,  which  affected caste-based self-defence industry, and many British measures, such as involvement in religious rituals  (abolition of sati, remarriage of Hindu widows),  and the issue of oiled cartridges (seen as an attempt to convert to Christianity), were among the many   British measures that affected both Hindus and Muslims It made them both angry.
  • The policies of the East India Company shattered the old economic foundations of India. Harsh taxes, rural debts, the destruction of Indian businesses and unfair trade policies favoured British imports,  causing widespread poverty.
  • It fostered a sense of betrayal and contempt for the institution through territorial expansion, boycott of treaties and policies dismantling the power of Indian rulers, such as   ‘Doctor of Labs‘ and  ‘sub-alliance‘.
  • Widespread corruption in the company’ s management, a sense of racial superiority and the remote,  alien aspect of British control fostered anti-India.
  • The communal attitude of the British administration, interference in socio-religious rituals, and support for Christian missionaries caused suspicion and concern about Indians losing  their cultural and religious identities.

 Impact of The Great Revolt of 1857:

  • India would be governed in the name of the British Crown  through a Foreign Secretary  assisted by the Council of India.The Court of Directors and the Board of Control of the East India Company were abolished,  making the Crown and Parliament responsible for the administration of India.
  • The East India Company’s private army was abolished and attached to the royal army.
  • The proclamation endorsed the treaties the Company entered into with the Indian princes, promised to respect their rights, dignity and respect,  and denied any ambition to extend British possessions in India.
  • Aiming to address the lack of Indian representation in the 1853  Legislative Council  that led to the crisis  ,  the new Council included Indian appointments.
  • The theory of failure and the principle of attachment must be abandoned. Amnesty was granted to the rebels,  except for  those directly involved in the killing of British citizens.
  • The insurgency spurred up education and public works programs, recognizing their value for the movement of troops during emergencies. Roads, railways, telegraphs and irrigation were emphasized.
  • The rebellion dimmed hopes for the renaissance of the past and led to the decay of the traditional structure of Indian society. The Westernized, Englisheducated middle class emerged with a high national spirit.
  • The rebellion contributed to the growth of Indian nationalism and set the stage for future nationalist movements. Leaders like Gandhi and Nehru drew inspiration from it.
  • The rebellion prompted a rethink of British policy in India, leading to reforms that addressed the underlying causes. The Government  of India Act 1858 was introduced, abolishing the rule of the East India Company and initiating British government rule in India.



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