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  • 01 July, 2021

  • Min Read

1857 Revolt

1857 Revolt

The revolt is a product of character and policies of colonial rule.

Economic causes-

The colonial policies destroyed the traditional economic fabric of Indian society.

  • Heavy Taxation under New Revenue Settlement,
  • Summary evictions for non-payment of debts,
  • Discriminatory tariff policy against Indian products,
  • Destruction of traditional handicrafts industry, and free trade for imports but not for exports .
  • Forfeiture of Zamindari land
  • Absence of concomitant industrialisation on modern lines that hit peasants, artisans and small zamindars.

Political causes-

Colonial policies led to Collapse of earlier aristocracy , affecting those who derived sustenance through religious and cultural pursuits.

  • Greedy Policy of Aggrandisement, broken pledges and promises leading to contempt for the company.
  • Policies like subsidiary alliance, effective control and doctrine of lapse, denial of right of succession to Hindu princes
  • British interference in socio-religious affairs of Indian-public.

Administrative Causes-

  • Absentee sovereignty character of British rule,
  • Rampant corruption, which remained till date as a colonial legacy
  • Foreign and alien look to it in the eyes of Indians’’

Socio Religious Causes-

  • Racial Overtones and Superiority Complex of Britishers
  • Activities of Christian Missionaries
  • Attempts at Socio Religious Reforms- Abolition of sati , Widow remarriage and women education.
  • Taxing religious establishments like mosques and temple lands
  • Laws like Religious Disabilities act 1856 that modified Hindu customs like Change of religion doesn’t bar son from inheriting father’s property.

Influence of Outside Events

  • First Afghan War (1838-42)
  • Punjab Wars(1845-49)
  • Crimean War(1854-56)

Military causes-

  • Discontent among sepoys for economic, psychological and religious reasons, coupled with a long history of revolts.
  • Company’s conditions of service came in conflict with Religious Beliefs and Prejudices of sepoys. Ex. Restrictions on wearing caste and sectarian marks.
  • General Service Enlistment Act
  • Lesser emoluments, cancellation of Foreign Service allowance.
  • Racial discrimination of sepoys
  • Greased Catridges

Sepoy Mutinies

Vellore Mutiny. (1806)

Mutiny of 47th Native Infantry Unit (1824)

Revolt of Grenadier Company (1825)

Assam Mutiny in Sholapur (1833)

Mutiny of 34th Native Infantry (1844), 22nd Native Infantry (1849)

66th Native Infantry (1850), 37th Native Infantry (1852)

Important points

  • The revolt starts at Meerut, spreading to Punjab in north, Bihar in east, Narmada in south and Rajputana in west.
  • Choice of Bahadur Shah as Symbolic head transformed mutiny of Sepoys to revolutionary war.
  • Popular Revolt: Peasantry, Artisans, Shopkeepers, Day labourers, Zamindars, Religious mendicants, Priests and Civil Servants participated making the revolt a popular revolt.

Leaders and British Resistance at different Centres of Revolt


Delhi- General Bakht Khan

Kanpur- Nana Saheb

Lucknow- Begum Hazrat Mahal

Bareilly- Khan Bahadur

Bihar- Kunwar Singh

Faizabad- Maulvi Ahmadullah

Jhansi- Rani Laxmibai

Baghpat- Shah Mal

British Resistance

Delhi -Lieutenant Willoughby, John Nicholson, Lieutenant Hudson

Kanpur-Sir Hugh Wheeler, Sir Colin Campbell

Lucknow- Henry Lawrence, Brigadier Inglis , Henry Havelock, James Outram and Sir Colin Campbell

Jhansi- Sir Hugh Rose

Benaras- Colonel James Neil

The British Resistance

Delhi -Lieutenant Willoughby, John Nicholson, Lieutenant Hudson

Kanpur-Sir Hugh Wheeler, Sir Colin Campbell

Lucknow- Henry Lawrence, Brigadier Inglis , Henry Havelock, James Outram and Sir Colin Campbell

Jhansi- Sir Hugh Rose

Benaras- Colonel James Neill

Causes of Failure

  • Limited territorial and social base,, .
  • Crucial support of certain sections of Indian public to British authorities.
  • Lack of resources as compared to those of the British.
  • Lack of coordination and a central leadership.
  • Lack of a coherent ideology and a political perspective.


R.C. Majumdar and S.N. Sen-"Not an organised 'national' revolt"

R.C. Majumdar-"Neither first, nor National War of Independence"

V.D. Savarkar-"War of independence"

Eric Stokes "Elitist in character"

Lawrence and Seeley-"Mere sepoy mutiny"

T.R. Holmes-A conflict between civilisation and barbarism"

James Outram-"A Mohammedan conspiracy making capital of Hindu grievances"

Percival Spear-Three phases of the revolt Conclusion: Not quite the first war of independence but sowed the seeds of nationalism and quest for freedom from alien rule.


  • Act for Better Government Of India 1858 was passed,Civil Service Act of 1861 passed.
  • Crown took over, Appointed Secretary of state for India,
  • Company rule abolished,
  • Queen's Proclamation altered administration-Freedom of religion without interference from British Officials, Respecting dignity and rights of native provinces, Equal Opportunity in government services.
  • Army reorganised –policy of division and counterpoise adopted, Army Amalgamation Scheme and Linked Battalion schemes started in 1861, All higher posts were reserved for Europeans,
  • Racial hatred deepened.

Previous Years questions


What was/were the object/objects of Queen Victoria's Proclamation (1858) ?

1. To disclaim any intention to annex Indian States

2. To place the Indian administration under the British Crown

3. To regulate East India Company's trade with India

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: a


Who was the Governor-General of India during the Sepoy Mutiny?

(a) Lord Canning

(b) Lord Dalhousie

(c) Lord Hardinge

(d) Lord Lytton

Ans: a


The ruler of which one of the following States was removed from power by the British on the pretext of misgovernance?

(a) Awadh

(b) Jhansi

(c) Nagpur

(d) Satara

Ans : a


Which one of the following places did Kunwar Singh, a prominent leader of the Revolt of 1857 belong to ?

(a) Bihar

(b) Madhya Pradesh

(c) Rajasthan

(d) Uttar Pradesh

Ans : a


With reference to the ‘revolt of the year 1857’, who of the following was betrayed by ‘friend’ captured and put to death by the British?

(a) Nana Sahib

(b) Kunwar Singh

(c) Khan Bahadur Khan

(d) Tantia Tope

Ans: d


The educated middle class in India:-

(a) opposed the revolt of 1857

(b) supported the revolt of 1857

(c) remained neutral to the revolt of 1857

(d) fought against native rulers

Ans : c


Which one of the following territories was not affected by the Revolt of 1857 ?

(a) Jhansi

(b) Chittor

(c) Jagdishpur

(d) Lucknow

Ans : b


Which one of the following statements does not apply to the system of Subsidiary Alliance introduced by Lord Wellesley? (2018)

(a) To maintain a large standing army at other’s expense.

(b) To keep India safe from Napoleonic danger.

(c) To secure a fixed income for the company.

(d) To establish British paramountcy over the Indian states.

Ans: c


Previous Years Mains Questions

1. The 1857 Uprising was the culmination of the recurrent big and small local rebellions that had occurred in the preceding hundred years of British rule.

2. Explain how the Uprising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.

Source: Spectrum

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