Revolt of 1857 – Causes, Effects, Reasons of Failure, Short Note on 1857 Revolt

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Revolt of 1857, also known as the First War of Indian Independence, was a significant uprising against British colonial rule in India. The revolt was sparked by a number of reasons, including economic exploitation, cultural repression, and mistreatment of Indian soldiers. The Revolt of 1857 was a stepping stone regarding the primary outburst of resentment and anger arising from the prevailing discontent against the British regime in India.

Furthermore, the mutiny lasted from 1857 to 1858 and involved soldiers, farmers, and other groups across northern and central India. Although the rebellion was ultimately suppressed by the British, it became a turning point in India’s struggle for independence and had far-reaching consequences for the British Empire. Aspirants preparing for the UPSC exam can go through the notes on the Revolt of 1857 to learn its political, economic, military, and social causes, effects, reasons for failure, and much more.

Introduction of Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857 was a widespread uprising in India that took place in response to various factors, including economic exploitation, cultural repression, and political injustices. The revolt first took place in Meerut on May 10, 1857, where the Indian soldiers or sepoys refused to use new Enfield rifles that were believed to have cartridges coated with beef and pork grease. This was because it was offensive to their Hindu and Muslim religious beliefs.

The rebellion soon spread to nearby towns and cities, and by June, it had become a widespread uprising against British rule. The Revolt of 1857 was marked by brutal violence on both sides, with rebels and British troops engaging in brutal battles and acts of terrorism. The British ultimately succeeded in suppressing the revolt, but it was still a significant milestone in India’s struggle for independence.

Short Note on Revolt of 1857

A few highlights and important points to note about the revolt of 1857 are mentioned below.

Particulars Details
The 1857 revolt is also known as – Sepoy Mutiny as per British historians

– The First War of Independence

– Indian Mutiny or the Great Rebellion

– The Indian Insurrection

The Revolt of 1857 Began From Meerut
Who Was the Governor General During the Revolt of 1857? Lord Canning
Immediate Cause of Revolt of 1857 Enfield Rifle introduction was the trigger cause of revolt in 1857

Causes of Revolt of 1857

The causes of the Revolt of 1857 can be broadly categorized into political, economic, military, and religious factors. The revolt had significant consequences for the British Empire and marked the beginning of a long struggle for independence and self-rule. Let’s take a look at some of the major causes in detail.

Political Causes of Revolt of 1857

There was widespread discontent with how the British governed India and the lack of representation of Indians in the administration. This became a major cause of the revolt of 1857. Here are some more political causes of 1857 revolt:

  • Indian sepoys were oppressed by the British and resentful of the annexation of the wealthy Kingdom of Oudh or Awadh.
  • There was a widespread perception that the British were exploiting India for their own benefit and that Indians were being denied a role in the government of their own country.
  • The British were dismissive of Indian culture and traditions, and their policies were disrespectful of the Indian culture.
  • The Indian population was frustrated with the widespread corruption among British officials. This also became a huge cause of the revolt of 1857.

Economic Causes of Revolt of 1857

The British policies in India resulted in immense poverty and unemployment, and the British extracted large amounts of wealth from the Indian economy. Let’s discuss the economic causes of the revolt of 1857 in detail.

  • The British levied heavy taxes on the Indian population and took control of India’s wealth and resources.
  • Indian farmers were highly impacted by the British policies, which resulted in the loss of their land and livelihood.
  • Unemployment was becoming more and more common, which added to the existing frustration among Indian citizens.
  • Also, the British trade policies in India disrupted traditional trade and commerce. Hence, the state of the economy became a critical cause of the revolt of 1857.

Socio-Economic Causes of 1857 Revolt

The socio-economic causes of the Revolt of 1857 were mainly rooted in the immense poverty and social injustice faced by the Indian lower classes. Even many Indian nobles felt that their status and power were being snatched by the British, and they resented the growing influence of the British in Indian politics and society. Besides, the British policies in India disrupted the traditional social structure, a major source of frustration and anger among the Indian population.

Military Causes of Revolt of 1857

Before the revolt of 1857 started, the Indian soldiers were unhappy with their working conditions, including low pay and discriminatory treatment. Moreover, they felt that their loyalty to the British was not recognized. The introduction of the new Enfield rifle, with cartridges that were believed to be coated with beef and pork grease, was the spark that ignited the revolt of 1857. In fact, it was seen as a direct attack on the religious beliefs of Hindu and Muslim sepoys in the British army.

This further highlighted that the British were disrespectful of Indian religious practices and beliefs, and their policies were seen as an attempt to impose Western culture and values on India.

Leaders of the Revolt of 1857

Many leaders from different regions of the country came together against the East India Company and the Britishers. The famous leaders of the revolt of 1857 and their regions are listed below in which they led the revolt:

Centres of Revolt Leaders Associated with the 1857 Revolt
Delhi Bahadur Shah II
Jhansi & Gwalior Lakshmi Bai & Tantia Tope
Kanpur Nana Saheb
Allahabad and Banaras Maulvi Liyakat Ali
Bareilly Khan Bahadur Khan
Lucknow Begum Hazrat Mahal
Bihar Kunwar Singh

Impact of Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857 had far-reaching consequences for the British Empire and India. It was the first large-scale uprising against British rule in India. Some of the key impacts of the revolt include the following:

  • The Revolt of 1857 helped spark a new sense of pride and unity among the Indian population and became a turning point in Indian history. What’s more, it demonstrated the growing desire among Indians for independence and self-rule.
  • It helped in the growth of Indian nationalism and set the stage for future nationalist movements.
  • Indian leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru drew inspiration from the revolt, and their efforts helped to further the cause of Indian independence.
  • The Revolt of 1857 led to a reconsideration of British policy in India and brought about many reforms that addressed the underlying causes of the revolt.
  • Lastly, the Government of India Act 1858 was introduced, and it abolished the rule of the East India Company in the country. This also marked the start of the rule of the British government in India.

Reasons for Failure of Revolt of 1857

Although the Revolt of 1857 was a major uprising against British rule in India, it ultimately failed to achieve its goals. And some of the key reasons for the revolt’s failure are listed below.

  • Lack of unity: The Revolt of 1857 was a diverse movement without a clear leader or central organization. The various groups that participated in the revolt had different goals and agendas. And this lack of unity made it difficult for the revolt to achieve the desired response.
  • No Unity among Indian Rulers: The Indian rulers and nobles who participated in the revolt were divided among themselves and unable to form a united front against the British. This became a major failure of the revolt of 1857.
  • Military superiority: The British had a much better-equipped and organized military, which meant they could quickly crush the revolt. In comparison, the Indian forces were poorly armed and lacked training, which made it difficult for them to stand up to the British.
  • Lack of popular support: The Revolt of 1857 was largely confined to northern India, and it did not receive widespread popular support across the country. This lack of support made it difficult for the revolt to gain momentum and achieve its aims.

Revolt of 1857 UPSC

The Revolt of 1857 united people from various sections of society to fight for a common cause. As a result of the uprising, the British East India Company’s rule in India was abolished, and the British government took direct control over the country by implementing the Government of India Act.

Aspirants preparing for the UPSC Exam must prepare the topic of the Revolt of 1857 well, as multiple questions can be asked from it in both the UPSC Prelims and Mains exam. You can also download previous year’s question papers to improve your knowledge. Meanwhile, here are a few facts about the Revolt of 1857 that you must know.

  • The revolt of 1857 is also known as the First War of Indian Independence.
  • It started on May 10, 1857, in the town of Meerut, in northern India.
  • One of the biggest reasons for the revolt was that the Indian sepoys in the army were forced to use new Enfield rifles that were believed to have cartridges coated with beef and pork grease.
  • This sparked outrage as this went against the beliefs of both Hindu and Muslim soldiers.
  • The Revolt of 1857 was marked by brutal violence on both sides, but the British ultimately won and suppressed the movement.

1857 Revolt UPSC Questions

Q1: Which year is associated with the Revolt of 1857 in India? – (a) 1857, (b) 1858, (c) 1859, (d) 1860

Answer: (a) 1857

Q2: The Revolt of 1857 was triggered by the introduction of which new rifle cartridge? – (a) 303 Enfield cartridge, (b) Minié ball cartridge, (c) Pattern 1853 Enfield cartridge, (d) Snider-Enfield cartridge

Answer: (c) Pattern 1853 Enfield cartridge

Q3: The Revolt of 1857 first broke out in which city? – (a) Delhi, (b) Kanpur, (c) Lucknow, (d) Meerut

Answer: (d) Meerut

Q4: Who was the last Mughal emperor who was proclaimed the leader of the Revolt of 1857?

  1. Bahadur Shah Zafar
  2. Akbar II
  3. Shah Alam II
  4. Aurangzeb

Answer: 1) Bahadur Shah Zafar

Q5: Analyze the causes of the Revolt of 1857 and its significance in the Indian freedom struggle. Discuss the major events and leaders associated with the revolt. (Word limit: 250 words) – [UPSC Mains]

Q6: Examine the role of Indian sepoys in the Revolt of 1857. Discuss their grievances, motivations, and contributions to the rebellion. (Word limit: 200 words)

Conclusion of Revolt of 1857

As mentioned above, the Revolt of 1857 played a crucial role in the Indian freedom struggle. It is even considered the First war of Indian Independence, and it truly shook the British Empire to its core.

  • The Revolt of 1857 was the first large-scale expression of Indian nationalism that acted as a catalyst for future movements and rebellions.
  • Although the movement saw widespread participation and bravery from Indian forces, it ultimately failed to overthrow British rule and achieve independence for India.
  • However, after the revolt of 1857, there was a reconsideration of British policy in India, and it helped to bring about several reforms.
  • In addition, the British colonial government realized that they must take steps to improve their administration and take a more humane approach.
Important UPSC Notes:
Fundamental Duties Economic Planning in India
Sources of Indian Constitution Five Year Plan In India
Amendments of Indian Constitution Military Exercises of India
Non Cooperation Movement International Organisations and their Headquarters
Types of Soil in India Panchayati Raj System
President of India UPSC Biodiversity Hotspots in India
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