Causes, Outbreak, Failure, and Impact of the 1857 Mutiny


The Revolt of 1857, Causes, Outbreak, Failure, and Impact
Causes of the Revolt:
Political Causes:
  • The policy of Doctrine of Lapse.
    • Nana Sahib was refused pension, as he was the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II
    • Rani Laxmi Bai’s adopted son was not recognized by the East India Company as the hier to Jhansi
    • Bahadur Shah’s successor was denied the right to live at the red fort 
    • The British did not obey the treaties sometimes and they were broken according to the need of the British and the nawabs at that time could not trust any treaty at all.
Economic Causes: 
Heavy taxation, evictions, discriminatory tariff policy against Indian products and destruction of traditional handicrafts that hit peasants, artisans and small zamindars, large scale unemployment and economic distress caused due to annexation of Indian states.
Military Discrimination:
  • Discrimination between the Indian and the British soldiers. Indian soldiers were paid low salaries compared to his British counterpart; they could not rise above the rank of subedar and were racially insulted.
  • They were also grieved because of the refusal of British to pay Foreign Service allowance (batta) while fighting in remote regions such as Punjab and Sindh.
Religious Discrimination:
  • British social reforms (widow remarriage, abolition of Sati, education for girls, Christian missionaries).
  • The introduction of Enfield rifle, the cartridge of which was greased with animal fat, provided the spark.
  • Inventions like railway and telegraphs spread of Western education also promoted the cause.
  • The British looked down upon Indians and followed a policy of racial discrimination and separated themselves as ‘superiors’ from the Indian society.
  • On Mar 29, 1857, a soldier named Mangal Pandey attacked and fired at his senior at Barrackpur in Bengal (in 19th and 34th Native infantry).
  • On May 10, there was a mutiny of sepoys’ at Meerut (3rd native cavalry).
  • Mutiny spread throughout UP along with some other parts of the country.
  • ‘Mar to Delhi’ became the battle cry of the rebels. At Delhi, the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II was proclaimed the Emperor of India.
  • Where the rulers were loyal to the British, the soldiers revolted as in Gwalior and Indore. In some places, the people revolted before the sepoys did.
  • In the beginning, the rebels were successful. Europeans were killed, law courts and police stations were attacked and revenue records were destroyed. But reverses soon began to occur.
Causes of Failure of the Revolt:
Lack of planning, organization and leadership.
  • Unfortunately, some Indians supported the British in suppressing the revolt. Scindia of Gwalior, the Holkar of Indore, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Raja of Jodhpur, the Nawab of Bhopal, the rulers of Patiala, Sindh and Kashmir and the Rana of Nepal provided active support to the British.
  • The modern intelligent Indians also didn’t support the cause.
  • The military equipment of the rebels was inferior.
Impact of the revolt:
  • The revolt was mainly feudal in character carrying with it some nationalist elements.
  • The control of Indian administration was passed on to the British crown by the Government, of India Act, 1858. The army was carefully reorganized to prevent the recurrence of such an event.
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