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Revolt of 1857 for Independence, Causes, Leaders and Consequences

Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny or India’s First War of Independence, was a major uprising against British rule in India. The 1857 uprising was widespread even if it failed. For the British crown, the British East India Company served as a sovereign power in India. Regarding the initial eruption of hatred and wrath resulting from the pervasive discontent towards the British, the Revolt of 1857 was a stepping stone.

The Revolt of 1857 is an important event in history and an important section of history in the preparation for the UPSC examination. In the garrison town of Meerut, on May 10, 1857, sepoys of the Company’s army staged a mutiny, signalling the start of the uprising. The Revolt of 1857 is regarded as the first instance of concerted opposition against the British East India Company.

Even though the uprising began as a sepoy rebellion, the Indian populace overwhelmingly supported it. The uprising included peasants, artisans, and members of other communities and religions. For the benefit of others, the East India Company’s troops gave their lives. In this uprising, everyone joined forces and battled as one.

What is the Revolt of 1857?

On May 10, 1857, troops in Meerut began the Revolt of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Independence 1857, which marked the commencement of the Indian Independence War. Later, the 1857 Revolt expanded throughout the nation. The Revolt of 1857 was referred to as the First War of Indian Independence by VD Savarkar.

According to Dr. SN Sen, the uprising “started as a fight for religion but concluded as a war of independence.” Famous historian Dr. RC Majumdar believes it was neither the first nor a national or an independent war. The 1857 Revolt is viewed by the British as only a sepoy revolt by peasants.

Background of the Revolt of 1857

  • The British East India Company had been expanding its control over India for most of the 19th century.
  • Many Indians felt resentment towards British rule due to:
    • Social and religious reforms were seen as disrespectful to Indian traditions.
    • Economic exploitation and discriminatory policies.
    • The introduction of a new type of cartridge for Enfield rifles, which sepoys believed was greased with animal fat offensive to their religious beliefs (cow and pig fat for Hindus and Muslims respectively).

Causes of Revolt of 1857

Although the Revolt of 1857 was widespread throughout India, it was mostly focused on areas of Central and North India. The 1857 uprising was the result of several factors, including economic, political, and military ones.

There were cases where indigenous land was still being exploited and Indians were being forced to adopt the British religion. It was frequently forceful, which bred resentment. Due to their perception that their faith and religious sentiments were in danger, people were extremely dissatisfied with this. This helped the general populace develop a sympathetic ear, and as a result, they united in their fight against British control.

Over time, the East India Company and the Britishers’ administrative innovations, economic exploitations, and expansionist ambitions also fed the fire.

1. Political Causes

  • The British policy of immediate annexation and expansion under the Doctrine of Lapse, promoted by Lord Dalhousie, was the primary Political Cause of the Revolt of 1857.
  • Between 1848 to 1856 Lord Dalhousie served as the Governor-General of India, and it was under his direction that the British added a number of new territories to the Indian subcontinent.
  • The Doctrine of Lapse greatly incensed the rulers of India against the British authority. Some of the Indian princes’ titles and pensions were also seized.
  • Following the passing of Baji Rao ll, Nana Sahib’s pension was halted, and the Rani of Jhansi lost her right to reign. She was stripped as a result of the British government’s breach of Hindu law.
  • The Governor-General annexed Satara (1848), Sambalpur (1850), Jhansi (1853), Nagpur (1853), Jaipur (1849) and Bhagat in eight years (1850).
  • The Religious Disabilities Act of 1850 made it possible for a Hindu who converted to another religion to inherit his ancestors’ wealth. The Hindus saw this as a reason to renounce one’s religious beliefs.
  • On the grounds of poor administration, Lord Dalhousie conquered Awadh, which resulted in the unemployment of thousands of officials, retainers, lords, and soldiers.
  • Due to Lord Dalhousie’s action, Awadh became a raging hotbed of anti-British sentiment. Bahadur Shah II’s death prompted Dalhousie to propose the abolition of the Mughal Emperor title.

2. Economic Causes

  • Public animosity stemmed from the British tactic of economically exploiting India. The general public suffered as a result of high tax expectations and a strict program for collecting revenue.
  • India’s economic potential was exploited by the British, who used it to create a colonial economy that benefited their capitalist interests.
  • India endured destitution after the Industrial Revolution in England because the arrival of British manufactured goods undermined local handicrafts and enterprises.
  • In India, British colonists controlled all plantation industries, including those for indigo, jute, tea, and coffee.
  • Peasants and the British started interacting as a result of the new British revenue system. Talukdars and zamindars, which used to collect government land tax, lost both their revenue and their position as a result of the system eliminating the middlemen from the equation.
  • In 1852 , Lord Dalhousie gave the Inam Commission the task of looking into the landlords’ title documents. Those who failed to provide documentation proving their ownership rights had those rights revoked.

3. Socio-Economic Causes

  • The British Indians were treated unfairly on account of their race and treated them with contempt. Many locations, including parks, hotels, and first-class rail cars, were off-limits to them because they were specifically designated for Englishmen.
  • The racial smugness the Britishers displayed injured the Indians, and as a result, the Indians came to view the English as their deadliest foes.
  • The legalization of widow remarriage and the outlawing of customs like Sati and female infanticide were seen as threats to society. This was viewed as a blow to the established Indian social order.
  • The change in the Hindu law of property, the spread of Christian missionaries, and the introduction of English education disturbed the orthodox Indians.

4. Military Causes

  • The British and Indian troops were treated very differently in terms of pay and other amenities. High officers mistreated the Indian soldiers because they were seen as inferior. Englishmen were the only people allowed to hold the highest positions in the military.
  • Caste and religious symbols were not permitted on Indian soldiers while they were in the military. It amounted to the British interfering in the Indian troops’ private and religious matters.
  • The General Services Enlistment Act mandated that sepoys serve overseas, including on British soil. majority of Indian soldiers served in conflicts for the English in Iran, China, and Crimea. Indian culture at the time regarded crossing the Sea as a loss of religion. This increased resentment toward the British.

Leaders of Revolt of 1857

Leaders from many different parts of the nation banded together to oppose the East India Company and the British. Below is a list of notable insurgents from the year 1857, along with the regions in which they spearheaded the uprising.

Places of Revolt Leaders Associated
Delhi Bahadur Shah II
Lucknow Begum Hazrat Mahal
Kanpur Nana Saheb
Jhansi & Gwalior Lakshmi Bai & Tantia Tope
Bareilly Khan Bahadur Khan
Allahabad and Banaras Maulvi Liyakat Ali
Bihar Kunwar Singh

Reasons for Failure of Revolt of 1857

Old and frail, Bahadur Shah was unable to lead the uprising. The uprising lacked central leadership and coordination, and it was poorly organized. The insurrection only briefly extended across a large area. The majority of India was largely unaffected. The larger princely states of Hyderabad, Mysore, Kashmir, Travancore, and Rajputana, as well as the minor ones, resisted the uprising.

The wealthy merchants and businessmen, as well as many zamindars, backed the British. Indians with modern education perceived the uprising as being retrograde. The Indian forces lacked enough equipment. The insurrection was ill-prepared and lacked a firm understanding of British control.

Consequences of Revolt of 1857

The East India Company’s rule in India came to an end as a result of the uprising. India was now directly governed by the British Crown. Viceroy became the new title for the governor’s office. General’s Doctrine of Lapse was disregarded, and the claims of Indian kings were acknowledged. The army was reorganized, but the armoury remained exclusively under English hands.

  1. End of the East India Company: Following the revolt, the British Crown assumed direct control over India, ending the rule of the East India Company.
  2. Policy Changes: The British government introduced several policy changes to address Indian grievances, including administrative reforms and greater respect for Indian customs.
  3. Indian Nationalism: The revolt played a significant role in fostering a sense of nationalism among Indians, inspiring future generations in their struggle against colonial rule.
  4. Cultural Impact: The revolt led to a resurgence of Indian cultural pride and a rejection of British cultural influences.
  5. Change in Colonial Policies: The British adopted a more cautious and pragmatic approach to governing India, emphasizing the importance of indigenous support.

Revolt of 1857 UPSC

The Revolt of 1857 is significant in the history of Indian freedom because it united people from many societal groups to fight for a common goal. The adoption of the Government of India Act, which ended the rule of the British East India Company in India and signalled the start of the British government’s direct rule over India, was the main result of the Revolt of 1857.

Other Important Articles
Freedom Fighters of India Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
Civil Disobedience Movement Quit India Movement

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Who started the Revolt of 1857?

Sepoy Mangal Pandey of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry, on March 29, 1857, at Barrackpore began the revolt of 1857.

What was the main cause of 1857 revolt?

Racism or racial discrimination was believed to be a major reason for the revolt of 1857 wherein Indians were exploited and were kept away from mixing with Europeans.

What is the Revolt of 1857 explain?

The Revolt of 1857 was a prolonged period of armed uprising as well as rebellions in Northern and Central India against British occupation of that part of the subcontinent.

Who won the 1857 revolt?

The actual incident of the sepoy mutiny was conducted from 1857 to 1858; the revolt period lasted more than one long year.

What is Sepoy Mutiny?

The Sepoy Imperialism or the Sepoy Rebellion, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny, was one of the most important events in the history of British imperialism in India.

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