Sepoy Rebellion – Sepoy Mutiny - Indian Rebellion of 1857
The Indian Rebellion began in 1857 and soon turned into a full-scale Anglo-Indian war. Several
decades of rule by the British East India Company and the persistence of Christian missionaries had
created deep concern among many Indians that the British intended to completely undermine
traditional social systems. In this context of unease, the East India Company's betrayal of its princely
allies and the insensitivity of British Army commanders to Indian religious and social conventions
were the immediate causes of the uprising.
The rebellion began as a mutiny among the sepoys. The British Indian Army had 40,000 British
soldiers and 232,000 Indian sepoys who maintained order in the empire. When the army command
introduced the new Enfield rifle, it required the soldiers to bite off the end of cartridges that were
lubricated with a mixture of beef and pork lard. Having oral contact with this substance was offensive
to both Hindu and Muslim, but the British showed remarkable insensitivity in severely punishing those
sepoys who refused to violate religious restrictions and bite the cartridges, thereby infuriating the
Beginning with a mutiny at Meerut on May 10, 1857, the rebellion spread to Delhi, which was
liberated from the British on May 11. The greatest centers of revolt were in the Gangetic Plain at
Delhi, Lucknow, and Cawnpore, with portions of Deccan and Punjab joining the rebellion. Though the
military mutiny was accompanied by widespread rural rebellion, the British government strongholds of
Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras were not threatened. Delhi was recaptured by the British in
September 1857, but war raged over northern and central India until 1858. Unbelievable atrocities
were committed by both sides, and British racism became much more pronounced. Peace was
proclaimed in July 1858, though Lakshmi Bai and Nana Sahib held out longer than that.
The Indian Rebellion destroyed the rule of the East India Company; the British Crown assumed direct
control of the colony and eventually entertained certain reforms that gave greater voice to Indians in
the government. The rebellion also convinced most Indians that the past could not be restored nor the
British easily ejected from the subcontinent.
Chattopadhyaya, Haraprasad, The Sepoy Mutiny, 1857: A Social Study and Analysis, 1957; Hibbert, Christopher, The Great
Mutiny: India, 1857, 1978; Pemble, John, The Raj, the Indian Mutiny and the Kingdom of Oudh 1801-1859, 1977; Robinson,
Jane, Angels of Albion: Women of the Indian Mutiny, 1997; Watson, Bruce, The Great Indian Mutiny: Colin Campbell and the
Campaign at Lucknow, 1991.
CITATION: MLA STYLE
"Indian Rebellion of 1857." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2010. <http://www.worldhistory.abc-