Indian Mutiny

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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).

References in periodicals archive ?
This rather simplistic account of the revolt of 1857 is commonly used in Sepoy Mutiny rhetoric to understate the important pretext of events leading to the Enfield rifle debacle.
Sorsky, an independent researcher, spent nearly 40 years assembling this annotated checklist of all literary and research works concerning the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
The Sepoy Mutiny brought an end to the governance of India by the East India Company and resulted in its assumption by the Crown.
The 1857 war for independence started as a sepoy mutiny against the East India Company, and soon escalated into a revolt by kings and civilians in northern and central India.
When he was finally captured by the British army during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, they preferred to hang him to death and eliminate his family members.
The drink would be accorded national drink status by April 17 next year to coincide with the 212th birth anniversary of first Assamese tea planter and Sepoy Mutiny leader Maniram Dewan," Ahluwalia said while addressing the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Assam Tea Planters Association in Jorhat, Assam.
30 -- On a recent visit to Lucknow, my colleague there offered to take me to a dinner meet of royalties from Awadh - the heartland of Uttar Pradesh that was once a prized province of the Mughal rulers and later much-eyed by the British, who took its control sometime around the Sepoy mutiny.
Sir Abraham Roberts (September 30, 1832); commissioned in the Bengal artillery (1851); appointed to the quartermaster general's staff (1856); he saw considerable action during the Sepoy Mutiny, in the Punjab (May-July 1857), at the siege of Delhi (June 8-September 20, 1857), and the second relief of Lucknow (November 16); he received the Victoria Cross for his bravery in a skirmish near Cawnpore (January 1858); after home leave he returned to India to serve on the expedition staff during the Umbeyla campaign (April-December 1863); he served as quartermaster general under Gen.
The drink would be accorded national drink status by April 17 next year to coincide with the 212th birth anniversary of first Assamese tea planter and Sepoy Mutiny leader Maniram Dewan," Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia was quoted by local media, as saying Saturday.