The Revolt Act of 1857

The Revolt act of 1857-59 was a widespread but ultimately unsuccessful rebellion against the rule of the British East India Company, which acted as a sovereign power on behalf of the British crown in India.
  • It was the first organized form of opposition to the British East India Company.
  • It began as a revolt of the British East India Company's army sepoys, but it eventually gained the support of the masses.
  • The revolt has been dubbed the Sepoy Mutiny by British historians, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion by Indian historians, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, and the First War of Independence by Indian historians (by Vinayak Damodara Savarkar).

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Causes of the Revolt Act -

Political Causes:

The political causes of the rebellion were the British policy of expansion through the Doctrine of Lapse and direct annexation. A large number of Indian rulers and chiefs were deposed, instilling fear in other ruling families who feared a similar fate. The adopted son of Rani Lakshmi Bai was not permitted to sit on the throne of Jhansi. Under the Doctrine of Lapse, Satara, Nagpur, and Jhansi were annexed. In addition, Jaitpur, Sambalpur, and Udaipur were annexed. Lord Dalhousie's annexation of Awadh under the guise of maladministration laid off thousands of nobles, officials, retainers, and soldiers. This measure turned Awadh, a traditionally loyal state, into a hotbed of discontent and intrigue.

Social and Religious Cause:

The rapidly spreading Western Civilization in India was causing alarm throughout the country.
In 1850, an act changed Hindu inheritance law, allowing a Hindu who converted to Christianity to inherit his ancestral properties. People believed that the government intended to convert Indians to Christianity. The legalization of widow remarriage and the abolition of practices such as sati and female infanticide were viewed as threats to the established social structure. Introducing western methods of education directly challenged Hindu and Muslim orthodoxy. Even the introduction of railways and the telegraph was met with skepticism.

Economic Cause:

Peasants and zamindars in rural areas were enraged by the Company's high land taxes and stringent revenue collection methods. Many of these groups were unable to meet the high revenue demands and repay their loans to money lenders, eventually losing their ancestral lands. Because a large number of sepoys belonged to the peasantry and had family ties in villages, the peasants' grievances affected them as well.
Following the Industrial Revolution in England, an influx of British manufactured goods into India ruined industries, particularly India's textile industry.
Handicraft industries in India had to compete with low-cost machine-made goods from Britain.

Military Causes:

The Revolt of 1857 began as a sepoy mutiny:
Indian sepoys made up more than 87% of British troops in India but were regarded as inferior to British soldiers.
A European sepoy of the same rank was paid more than an Indian sepoy.
They were compelled to serve in locations far from their homes.
Lord Canning issued the General Services Enlistment Act in 1856, requiring sepoys to be ready to serve even in British territory across the sea.

Immediate Cause:

Eventually, the greased cartridge episode led to the Revolt of 1857.
There was a rumour that the new Enfield guns' cartridges were greased with pig and cow fat.
The sepoys had to bite off the cartridge paper before loading these weapons. Muslims and Hindu sepoys both objected to their use.
The problematic cartridges were removed as Lord Canning attempted to make amends, but the harm had already been done. Unrest could be found everywhere.
Mangal Pandey, a sepoy in Barrackpore, had resisted using the gun and assaulted his superior officers in March 1857. On April 8, he was strangled to death.


In the annals of British rule in India, the uprising of 1857 was unprecedented. It brought together numerous segments of Indian society for a common goal, albeit in a limited manner. Even though the uprising fell short of its intended objective, it did plant the seeds of Indian independence.

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