Modern History

Revolt of 1857 – Causes, Impact, Failure, List of Important Leaders Involved, FAQ l


The revolt of 1857 was the conscious beginning of the Independence struggle against the colonial tyranny of the British. There are various names for the revolt of 1857 – India’s First War of Independence, Sepoy Mutiny, etc.

The revolt began on May 10, 1857, at Meerut as a sepoy mutiny. It was initiated by sepoys in the Bengal Presidency against the British officers.

This war of Independence marked the end of rule by the British East India company. Post this, India was directly ruled by the British government through representatives known as Governor-General.

This article provides all relevant information related to the Revolt of 1857 and its causes and effects. This is an important topic for the Civil Services Exam and other government exams.

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Immediate Reason of Revolt of 1857

The immediate factor was the introduction of the ‘Enfield’ rifle. The cartridge had to be bitten off before loading it into the gun. Indian sepoys believed that the cartridge was greased with either pig fat or made from cow fat. This was against the Hindu and Muslim sentiments. Thus they were reluctant to use the ‘Enfield’ rifle. This was a flashpoint to enrage the soldiers against the British. As a result was believed to be the immediate factor for the revolt of 1857.

Causes of Revolt of 1857

The revolt of 1857 was initiated due to various factors which are stated below:

  • Religious & Social Causes – 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. The whites also started interfering in the religious and cultural affairs of Indians and tortured them as well.

To know more about the Social causes for revolt of 1857, refer to the linked article.

  • Political Causes – The British expansion had led to the propagation of unjust policies that led to the loss of power of the Nawabs and Zamindars residing at various places of India. The introduction of unfair policies like the policy of Trade and Commerce, the policy of indirect subordination (subsidiary alliance), the policy of war and annexation, the policy of direct subordination (doctrine of lapse), the policy of misgovernance (through which Awadh was annexed) greatly hampered the interests of the rulers of the native states, and they one by one became victims of British expansionism. Therefore, those rulers, who lost their states to the British, were naturally against the British and took sides against them during the revolt.
  • Economic Factors -There were various reforms in the taxation and revenue system that affected the peasants’ heavily. British Government had imposed and introduced various administrative policies to expand their territory.
  • Military Factors: Another major cause was the General Enlistment Act of July 25 1856. Passed 10 months before the rebellion, the act required that new recruits to the Bengal Army to accept a commitment for general service. Earlier the enlisted men of the Bengal Army had been exempted from serving overseas as they believed that such an act would be against their beliefs. But the Madras and Bombay regiments had no such inhibitions. Governor-General Lord Dalhousie felt it unfair that the burden of deployment fell squarely on the smaller presidency armies. With the signing of the act, sepoys of the Bengal Army felt that it would also prevent their sons from following their footsteps while fearing the prospect of serving overseas.

The major policies are listed below:

To more about such important land revenue systems, check the linked article.

These three settlements were highly exploitative, and in particular, the Permanent settlement had created a devastating impact. Thus the peasants were greatly encouraged to overthrow the British Government from India and led to their active participation in the revolt of 1857.

Military Factors – The Indian soldiers faced a lot of discrimination from the British officials with respect to their salaries, pensions, promotions. Indians were subjugated in the military while their European counterparts faced no such discrimination. This led to discontent and was a major military factor that resulted in the revolt of 1857.

To know more about military factors in detail, refer to the linked article.

Vellore Mutiny

The Vellore Mutiny took place even before the revolt of 1857 (50 years before). It erupted on 10th July 1806 in Vellore, present-day Tamil Nadu, and lasted only for a day, but it was brutal and it was the first major mutiny by the Indian sepoys in the East India Company.

Impact of Revolt of 1857

The revolt of 1857 shook the foundation of British East India Company and disclosed their inefficiency in handling the Indian administration. The major impact was the introduction of the Government of India Act, 1858 which abolished the rule of British East India Company and marked the beginning of British raj that bestowed powers in the hands of the British government to rule India directly through representatives.

To know more about the major Impact of the revolt of 1857, refer to the linked article.

Causes of Failure of the revolt of 1857

The revolt was eventually not successful in ousting the British from the country because of several factors.

  1. The sepoys lacked one clear leader; there were several. They also did not have a coherent plan by which the foreigners would be routed.
  2. Indian rulers who aided the revolt did not envision any plan for the country after the British were defeated.
  3. Majorly northern India was affected by this revolt. The three presidencies of Bengal, Bombay and Madras remained mostly unaffected.

List of Important Leaders associated with the revolt of 1857

Place Revolt of 1857 -Important Leaders
Delhi Bahadur Shah II, General Bakht Khan
Lucknow Begum Hazrat Mahal, Birjis Qadir, Ahmadullah
Kanpur Nana Sahib, Rao Sahib, Tantia Tope, Azimullah Khan
Jhansi Rani Laxmibai
Bihar Kunwar Singh, Amar Singh
Rajasthan Jaidayal Singh and Hardayal Singh
Farrukhabad Tufzal Hasan Khan
Assam Kandapareshwar Singh, Maniram Dutta Baruah
Orissa Surendra Shahi, Ujjwal Shahi

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Frequently Asked Questions – Revolt of 1857


Who coined the name Sepoy Mutiny?

In India, the term First War of Independence was first popularized by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1909 book The History of the War of Indian Independence.


What was the immediate reason for the revolt of 1857?

The immediate factor was the introduction of the ‘Enfield’ rifle. It was said that the cartridge of this rifle was wrapped in the fat of cow and pig. The cartridge had to be bitten off before loading it into the gun. Thus the Hindu and Muslim soldiers were reluctant to use the ‘Enfield’ rifle.


What are the causes of revolt 1857?

There are many reasons that led to the revolt of 1857. Major reasons for the revolt can be broadly classified into – Political, Social, Economic, Religious, Military, etc. The causes have been discussed in this article under respective sections.


What are the important points of revolt of 1857?

The main impact of the 1857 revolt was the abolishment of the East India Company, India was under the direct control of British authority, The Indian administration was directly controlled by queen victoria. The second major impact that the revolt of 1857 created was to develop unity & patriotism in the nation.


What was the main objective of 1857 revolt?

The major goal of the uprising was to prevent the assimilation of Indians into Western and British culture. Indians felt that the British wanted to strip them of their ethnic and religious identities. Another goal of the uprising was to slow down the acquisition of Indian lands by the British East India Company.


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