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The Origin and course of the Indian Revolt of 1857 Essay

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Updated: Aug 18th, 2019

The British East India Corporation in the financial year 1857 managed over 1.60 million subcontinent-squared miles of the territorial land. These included controlling the freshly invaded nations such as Punjab and Sind in the fiscal 1849 and 1843 respectively. These areas were under the protection and control of equal, but huge military forces comprising of three separate defense forces surrounding the presidents from Bengal, Bombay, and Madras.

The joint national troops for this company only totaled to two hundred and eighty thousand men in the fiscal 1856. This made it the major all-unpaid mercenary defense force globally, and the most tactical and commanding tool for Britain to dominate the world. However, a year later the Bengal defense force, which was the strongest arm of the military showed signs of ending the reign of British in India (Bayly 51).

Whereas the corporation of East India started its trade dealings in the 17th century, the conversion into a defensive dynasty in the 18th century necessitated that it incorporates martial issues in its policies. The company had to stabilize its rule by suppressing the alliances and border securities, as well as the internal instability.

Communication, transportation and strategies to avert the risky pan Indian combination encountered difficulties implying that the corporation control centers at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras had to maintain different civil, military staffs, commanders in chiefs, and detached military establishments. Bengal housed the slackly coordinated Indian army presidencies, who controlled policies on the Indian revenue collection, diplomacy, and warfare (Brodkin 278).

The military of India comprised of different customs and citizens. In fact, regulars from Britain were incorporated in the regal defense forces where they rotated duties while each of the three presidential armed forces employed citizens from Europe. Armed forces from Europe that operated in India by 1857 totaled to forty thousand troops. Nevertheless, the Crown and Corporation militia regarded each other with shared revulsion and they were kept rather detached (Randall 9).

In India, armed forces from Europe were few and remained divided although they offered key defense against mutiny and domination. The British officers separately commanded some European militaries such as Frontier Scouts. The Irregular Punjab Force was responsible for the Indian administration although the Lieutenant council openly controlled it.

In 1857, the Bengal defense force was reportedly the largest despite the fact most national troops were incorporated in the three presidential militias of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras. Volunteers from India became absorbed in the military for various reasons. For instance, the Indian population provided a pool of resourceful labor, the British territory expanded and necessitated adequate protection, Indians were healthier compared to Europeans, the local combatants were disciplined, and less expensive (Carter and Crispin 52).

Besides, it was comparatively undemanding to recruit national troops from different areas into the armed forces of India. For example, Rajputs from north of India honored and respected military services since their backgrounds were founded on pre-colonial militia services. This made it easy for the British to have recruits from such inhabitants.

The company also offered better, steady and respectable remuneration packages compared to the British counterparts. By 1857, the salaries became less attractive since they hardly matched the living costs. There were also further benefits including land grants and special payments offered by the corporation for any troop that was brave during the battles, had good conducts, and those who willingly worked in the overseas military stations (Bayly 55).

Even though there were advocates for every presidential armed force, the Bengal militia appeared as the focus of the Indian defense force. The Indian militia was typically made of recruits with physique and characters resembling the Bengal defense force. Most of the Bengal soldiers were drawn from Bihar and Oudh (Awadh) (Chakravarty 256).

Unlike the Bombay and Madras soldiers who were recruited from various religions and castes, Bengal hardly included Muslims, Christians, and officers from the lower castes. Britain similarly followed the suit of recruiting high caste sepoys, and it had to avoid corporal punishment and observe the religious prohibition and ceremonies.

The Bengal sepoys were considered superior to other militias from India because their dominance was reinforced by excessive concession of caste rituals, which occurred in the mid century (Brodkin 281). Nonetheless, soldiers from Britain called the Bengal militia sepoys models. They were disciplined and possessed high native traits besides being encouraged by the fact that they ensued from the self-esteemed colonial troops.

Although most officers in the British militia camp only saw modest danger signals, the Bengal defense force was rambled with dissatisfaction in the middle of the century. First, the real wages paid to sepoy could not match the living cost. Misunderstanding and miscommunication amid the native sepoys and British officials increased because of various causes that jointly reinforced each other.

The native soldiers could have offered significant linkages amid the two sides, but they had little power to command and the British officials never trusted them with key positions (Carter and Crispin 56). This situation occurred since promotion was not founded on merit, but on superiority. This implied that for native soldiers to advance in the military ranks, they must be mature, and this took several years.

Leadership skills and talents were barely prized whilst soldiers never respected individuals based on the ranks. Indian soldiers were placed in the regimental arrangement that ensured they did not have any power matching the British soldiers.

That is, the highly rank local soldiers could not outrank soldiers from Britain with low statuses (Randall 5). The superior British administrators infrequently needed the local soldiers’ views. Thus, the native militias had dismal morale and motivations to talk efficiently about files and ranks.

The British soldiers were always absent from their duties pursuing other irregular regiment and gainful job opportunities. The junior officers could not therefore identify and know those who were in authority. A blend of prejudiced communication and nonattendance amid the British soldiers and native militias made the troops lose self-esteem and the strong sensation of identity amongst the file and rank (Brodkin 284). These groups however came from comparable spiritual and societal milieus.

Various supplementary issues particular to the years before the 1857 Revolt fueled the dissatisfaction amid the Bengal sepoys. First, the British authority rapidly expanded its reign to other subcontinents as was indicated by the invasion and capture of Awadh and Punjab in the fiscal years 1856 and 1848. The Bengal military were angered when the British militia finally invaded Punjab.

The Bengal soldiers used to receive additional payments while they served in any territory situated external to the control of the corporation (Chakravarty 258). In 1849, Punjab was formally acquired and became a constituent of the territories managed by the corporation. The soldiers occupying different ranks became irritated and grumbled when additional payments they received from Punjab stopped.

Most recruited soldiers hailed from Awadh, and its invasion caused additional aggravation amongst the home population and sepoys. The Awadh emperor was abruptly ousted making most provincial inhabitants believe that the deed was a profound dishonor. The Corporation hired a chief administrator from Britain to occupy the position and introduce newfangled bylaws relating to land rights.

This stripped off most powerful taluqdars and zamindars who customarily headed the community (Streets 1). Besides, transferring Oudh to the corporation generated intense adversities from the inhabitants since the imposed property taxes caused the common district populace to suffer a great deal. The court of Oudh king was removed following increment in the prices of essential commodities as well as the dislocations and unemployment.

Secondly, the Bengal militias had sepoys who progressively felt that soldiers from Britain intended to transform Indians to Christians. This followed the enactment of the 1834 Christian missionary bylaw that intensified Christian activities from the fiscal 1840 to 1850. A few Bengal soldiers and most missionaries loved Indians though they publicly criticized Hindu and Islamic.

Every force aspired to Christianize Indians, and this started in the fiscal 1828 with Bentinck William spearheading his followers (Bayly 56). The Muslims and Hindus were deeply horrified by evangelisms organized by Christians from Britain. The British purportedly wanted to convert people forcefully as was eminent in the implemented changes in the customary rights, bylaws, and landholdings.

The Bengal soldiers mistrusted the religious intents of the British. The sepoys alleged that people from Britain had the ill motives of reversing their time-honored religious tolerance. The sepoys detested the fiscal 1856 bylaw dubbed the General Service Enlistment. The law necessitated that recruits in the presidential defense forces must be willing to work in the foreign nations when necessary (Streets 1).

High caste Hindus were repulsive since they believed that whoever crossed the ocean was impure and necessitated pricey cleansing. In 1856, there was a state of dilemma given that failure to join the armed forces implied losing highly valued vocation. Most Bengal soldiers coming from Oudh believed that the British wanted to subvert their religion, destroy the customs, and seize power to make Christianity the most prevalent religion.

In the late 1856, it was alleged the British supplied armories and rifle loading cartridges to the soldiers in the East India Corporation after smearing them with beef and pork fats. This was the final straw because Islam disallowed the eating of mutton, as it was repulsive to their faith while any Hindu who touched or ate beef lost the caste (Brodkin 287). A majority thus believed that the British intentionally wanted these groups to lose their religions. In fact, the military drill wanted a militia gnaw an end of the magazine prior to filling in the bullets.

When the matter was investigated, it became apparent that either lard or tallow was utilized in lubricating the magazines. It was also alleged that fats from either cow or pig were incorporated in the blend. According to the British militia management, this was an accidental fault, yet it depicted how those in power tried to oppress the deprived.

The British soldiers rapidly rushed to rectify the mistake and allowed the militia to tear the magazines using their hands and lubricate them personally using ghee. The Bengal militias and other troops declined to take the magazines causing 85 male soldiers from the third Mirath national Cavalry to be jailed, and dishonored after they refused to take military commands. On 10 May 1857, the entire troop revolted in disapproval and murdered their commanders from Britain (Streets 1).

Works Cited

Bayly, Christopher. Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770 – 1870, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1983. Print.

Brodkin, Edward. “The Struggle for Succession: Rebels and Loyalists in the Indian Mutiny of 1857.” Modern Asian Studies, 6.3(1972): 277-290. Print.

Carter, Marina, and Crispin Bates. “Empire and Locality: A Global Dimension to the 1857 Uprisings.” Journal of Global History, 5.1(2010): 51-73. Print.

Chakravarty, Gautam. The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.

Randall, Duncan. “Autumn 1857: The Making of the Indian Mutiny.” In Victorian Literature and Culture, 31.1 (2003): 3-17. Print.

Streets, Heather. “The Rebellion of 1857: Origins, Consequences, and Themes.” An Internet Journal of Pedagogy, 1.1 (2001): 85-104. PDF file. 5 Dec 2012. <>.

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