Indian Mutiny

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Related to Indian Mutiny: Sepoy Rebellion, Sepoy Mutiny

Indian Mutiny,

1857–58, revolt that began with Indian soldiers in the Bengal army of the British East India Company but developed into a widespread uprising against British rule in India. It is also known as the Sepoy Rebellion, sepoys being the native soldiers.

Causes of the Mutiny

In the years just prior to the mutiny many factors combined to create a climate of social and political unrest in India. The political expansion of the East India Company at the expense of native princes and of the Mughal court aroused Hindu and Muslim alike, and the harsh land policies, carried out by Governor-General DalhousieDalhousie, James Andrew Broun Ramsay, 1st marquess of
, 1812–60, British statesman. After serving as president of the Board of Trade (1845–47) he was governor-general of India (1847–56).
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 and his successor, Lord CanningCanning, Charles John Canning, Earl,
1812–62, British statesman; third son of George Canning. Succeeding to the peerage conferred on his mother, he took his seat as Viscount Canning in the House of Lords (1837) and served as Sir Robert Peel's undersecretary for foreign
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, as well as the rapid introduction of European civilization, threatened traditional India. In 1853, Nana SahibNana Sahib
, b. c.1821, leader in the Indian Mutiny, his real name was Dhundu Pant. The adopted son of the last peshwa (hereditary prime minister) of the Marathas, his request (1853) to the British to grant him the peshwa's title and pension was refused.
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, leader of the Marathas, was denied his titles and pension by the British, and the aged Bahadur Shah IIBahadur Shah II
, 1775–1862, last Mughal emperor of India (1837–57). A political figurehead, he was completely controlled by the British East India Company, who found it convenient to maintain the fiction of Mughal rule.
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, last of the Mughal emperors, was informed that the dynasty would end with his death.

The Indian soldiers were dissatisfied with their pay as well as with certain changes in regulations, which they interpreted as part of a plot to force them to adopt Christianity. This belief was strengthened when the British furnished the soldiers with cartridges coated with grease made from the fat of cows (sacred to Hindus) and of pigs (anathema to Muslims). The British replaced the cartridges when the mistake was realized; but suspicion persisted, and in Feb., 1857, began a series of incidents in which sepoys refused to use the cartridges.


On May 10 the sepoys revolted at Meerut; they captured Delhi and proclaimed Bahadur Shah II the emperor of all India. The mutiny spread rapidly through N central India, and, by the end of June, Cawnpore (KanpurKanpur
, city (1991 pop. 2,029,889), Uttar Pradesh state, N central India, on the Ganges River. A major industrial center, it produces chemicals, textiles, leather goods, and food products. It is also a transportation hub with an airport.
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) had fallen to the sepoys of Nana Sahib, and Lucknow was besieged. In repressing the rebellion the British were aided by the loyalty of the Punjab (the Sikhs did not wish to see the restoration of Mughal rule) and the passivity of the south. Troops (largely British) under generals Colin CampbellCampbell, Colin, Baron Clyde,
1792–1863, British general. He commanded troops in China (1842–46) and India (1847–54) and in the famous victory at Balaklava (1854) in the Crimean War.
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 and Henry HavelockHavelock, Sir Henry
, 1795–1857, British general. Entering the army in 1815, he was sent (1823) to India, where he served in the first Burma War (1824–26), the first Afghan War (1839), and the Sikh Wars (1843–49).
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 accomplished the reconquest. Delhi was recaptured in Sept., 1857, and Lucknow (which had been abandoned in Nov., 1857) was retaken in Mar., 1858. The rebellion was marked by atrocities on both sides, the British taking savage reprisals for the massacres perpetrated by the rebels.

The Beginning of Reform

Despite the army's sometimes savage reconquest, the British government did recognize the urgent need for reform, and in 1858 the East India Company was abolished and rule assumed directly by the British crown. Expropriation of land was discontinued, religious toleration was decreed, and Indians were admitted to subordinate positions in the civil service. However, the rebellion was long remembered with bitterness by the British. Military precautions against further uprisings included increasing the proportion of British to native troops and restricting artillery service to Britons. Although it is too much to say that the mutiny constituted a nationalist uprising, it was at that time that the first stirrings of active Indian nationalism began to be felt.


See Sir John Kaye and G. Malleson, History of the Indian Mutiny (6 vol., 1896); T. P. Holmes, History of the Indian Mutiny (3 vol., 1904–12); A. T. Embree, ed., 1857 in India (1963); S. B. Chaudhuri, Theories of the Indian Mutiny (1965).

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References in periodicals archive ?
(2009) 'Indian Mutiny,' available at:
The Siege of Lucknow, which took place from July 1 to November 19, 1857, was one of the seminal events of the Indian Mutiny. Indian mutineers besieged the Lucknow Residency, some 270 miles from Delhi, containing British military and civilians.
We studied the Indian Mutiny and the Opium Wars; they heard about the rise of the Labour Party.
Herbert brings a bracingly unjaundiced eye to such well-known (though perhaps underanalyzed) histories as Charles Bali's History of the Indian Mutiny [1859-1860] while also scrutinizing more obscure texts such as Vivian Dering Majendie's extraordinary firsthand account of the conquest of Lucknow, Up Among the Pandies [1859].
The monetary cost to Britain of putting down the Indian Mutiny was estimated at around 42 million [pounds sterling], an enormous sum for a conflict that lasted little over a year.
These include Indigenous Australian Bungaree, who was painted wearing a red coat as a symbol of authority, to the Hero of Waterloo hotel in Sydney's Rocks, to the first Australian Victoria Cross winner (in the Indian Mutiny) who became a hermit on the Hawkesbury and died under another name in 1899.
(5) Andrew Ward, Our Bones Are Scattered: The Cawnpore Massacres and the Indian Mutiny of1857 (London, 2004), p.
The Indian mutiny of the 1850s was caused by rumours spreading to those troops recruited from the native Indian population that their ammunition and guns were lubricated using cow and pig fat, which was offensive to both the Muslim and Hindu soldiers of the Raj.
Sayyid Ahmad Khan's resentment after the 1857 Indian Mutiny, at what he called the "passion and prejudice" that "dripped from the pens of historians" whom he accused of "knowing nothing whatsoever of Islam," and of "culling passages from the Quran" to show that it "sanctioned the wholesale butchery of Christians," (p.
The first Private Derby was acquired at the siege and capture of Kotah during the Indian Mutiny Campaign of 1858.
Gregory Foremont-Barnes' THE INDIAN MUTINY 1857-58 (9781846032097, $14.95) adds to the 'Essential Histories' multi-volume history of war which focuses on war as seen from political, cultural and individual perspectives alike.
Prince Harry's presence in Iraq would precipitate the greatest massacre of British troops since the Indian Mutiny of the 19th Century.

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