1857 Revolt and its Causes- History Guide for Class 8

1857 Revolt and its Causes- History Guide for Class 8

Information about 1857 Revolt and its Causes


1857 Revolt and its Causes


Class 8


Class 8 History

Topics Covered

  • Causes of the Revolt
  • Political Causes
  • Economic Causes
  • Social and Religious Causes
  • Military Causes
  • Immediate Causes

Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857 was the landmark in the history of India's struggle for freedom. It started on May 10, 1857 with the mutiny of soldiers in Meerut Cantonment. The evolutionary soldiers marched towards Delhi. On May 11, 1857, Delhi was a mute witness to a band of sepoys who crossed over the River Yamuna and entered the Red Fort. They appealed to the aged Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah, an emperor without any authority, to take over the leadership of the revolt. He was proclaimed the Shahenshah-e-Hindustan. The sepoys captured the city of Delhi, killed many Englishmen and ransacked many public offices.
Though the revolt was started by the Indian soldiers in the service of the East India Company, it soon spread to different parts of country. Different sections of the society like peasants, artisans, soldiers, educated Indians and many Indian rulers joined hands to fight herocially against the foreign rule. Hindus and Muslims also came together to oppose the foreign domination.
The event was also called The Uprising, the Revolt of 1857 or the Sepoy Mutiny by the British. But Indian historians call it the First War of Independence as it was the first time that different sections of Indian society united and fought as one nation to throw off the shackles of foreign domination. The event was also called The Uprising, the Revolt of 1857 or the Sepoy Mutiny by the British. But Indian historians call it the First War of Independence as it was the first time that different sections of Indian society united and fought as one nation to throw off the shackles of foreign domination.

Ever since the British had set foot on Indian soil, the nation was losing its wealth and independence. The aim of the British was to exploit the resources of our country. From 1757 onwards, they won almost every battle against the Indian rulers and kept on expanding the area under their control. They sent Indian wealth back home to England. This angered the Indians. Finally, 100 years later, in 1857, a number of Indians revolted against the exploitation.

Causes of the Revolt

There are several causes for the revolt of 1857
  1. Political Cause
  2. Economic Causes
  3. Social and Religious Causes
  4. Military Causes
  5. Immediate Causes

Political Causes

The revolt was the outcome of the widespread resentment that had been boiling against the British for a long time. The Indian sepoys were dissatisfied with the treatment meted out to them. The Indian rulers—Bahadur Shah Zafar, Tantya Tope of Gwalior, Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi and Nana Saheb of Kanpur—had personal scores to settle with the British. They led the revolt in their respective territories.
  • The common people of Delhi, Lucknow, Gwalior and other places had no narrow ambitions of power or money. They wanted an end of the foreign exploitation.
The policy of annexation of Dalhousie, particularly, the Doctrine of Lapse, created fear and resentment among Indian rulers. They were not allowed to adopt heir to the throne. This policy ensured that those kingdoms, where the kings did not have natural heirs, would be taken over by the British after the demise of the king. It is believed that if the British would have not snapped the compensation that kings were paid earlier in return of a share in government, the kings would not have joined the revolt!

The British signed many treaties with the Kings and Nawabs but violated them, as per their convenience.
One such treaty signed with Awadh was Subsidiary Alliance in 1801.
  • The Nawab Wajid All Shah was compelled to accept the permanent British army within the territory and to pay a subsidy for its maintenance
  •  He could not recruit any other European in his service without prior approval.
  • He had to station a Resident in his court, which reduced the power of the Nawab.
  • Gradually, the Indians lost all trust in the British. Awadh had been an ally of the East Indian Company for nearly a century.
  • Still it was annexed on the plea that the government was not functioning properly.
  • The Nawab was exiled to Calcutta. Begum Hazrat Mahal took over the reign of Awadh. This shocked the other rulers. 

Economic Causes

The policy of economic exploitation and the destruction of the traditional Indian economic structure by the British caused widespread resentment among Indians. The zamindari system exploited the peasants who were forced to grow only those crops that the British industries required. They were tortured or jailed on failure to pay the revenue in time. Industrial goods like textiles from Britain flooded the Indian markets. This destroyed Indian industries and made the artisans and peasants unempolyed.

Whenever the princely states were annexed, the British got rent-free land and huge amount of money. The common people faced unemployment and poverty. When Awadh was occupied by the British, Nawab's officials were dismissed and his army was disbanded. About 60,000 professional soldiers lost their livelihood. 

Social and Religious Causes

The social reforms by the British were considered an interference in the customs and traditions of the Hindus. Many Indians opposed the introduction of western education and the conversion of Indians to Christianity. The Hindu law of property was changed to enable a Christian convert to receive his share of ancestral property. The spread of railways created further fear among the poor and illiterate sections of the society that they would lose their caste.

Indians were not allowed to travel in first class train compartments. The conservative Indians were alarmed by the rapid spread of western culture and English education in India. Moreover, the British looked down upon Indians and followed a policy of racial discrimination. They considered themselves as 'superiors'. They advocated a judicial system based on the principle of equality but in actual practice it was biased.

Military Causes

The Sepoys had helped the British to establish their empire in India but instead of receiving awards or promotions, they were humiliated by the British. There was discrimination between the Indian and the British soldiers. The highest pay given to an Indian sepoy as subedar was less than the minimum pay of a European recruit. The Act of 1856, made it compulsory for new Indian recruit to serve overseas. It hurt the feelings of the soldiers as Hindus believed that overseas travel would lead to the loss of caste. 

Immediate Causes

The cartridges of the new Enfield rifle had a greased paper cover which had to be bitten off before the cartridge was loaded into the rifle. It was said that the grease composed of beef and pig fat. Both the Hindus and the Muslims refused to use them as the cow is sacred to the Hindus and the pig is detestable to the Muslims.

On March 29, 1857 at Barrackpore near Calcutta, Mangal Pandey, a young Indian Sepoy from Bengal Regiment, refused to use the greased cartridge and shot down his sergeant. He was arrested, tried and executed. When this news spread, many sepoys started the revolt.

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