The Revolt of 1857: Causes, Nature, Importance and Outcomes

The Revolt of 1857, also regarded as India's First War of Independence is an extremely important event of Indian history. In this article, we have summarized the causes, impact, importance, and outcomes of the revolt.
The Revolt of 1857: Causes, Nature, Importance and Outcomes
The Revolt of 1857: Causes, Nature, Importance and Outcomes

The Revolt of 1857 was a prolonged period of armed uprising as well as rebellions in Northern and Central India against British occupation of that part of the subcontinent. Small precursors of brewing discontent involving incidences of arson in cantonment areas began to manifest themselves in January. Later, a large-scale rebellion broke out in May and turned into what may be called a full-fledged war in the affected region. This war brought about the end of the British East India Company’s rule in India, and led to the direct rule by the British Government (British Raj) of much of the Indian Subcontinent for the next 90 years.

Revolt of 1857

Causes of 1857 Revolt

The issue of greased cartridges and military grievances has been over-emphasized, as the factor for the Revolt of 1857. However, recent researches have proved that the cartridge was not the only cause for this revolt. In fact, multiple causes i.e., social-religious-political- economic worked together to produce the rebellion.

1. Social and Religious Causes: The British had abandoned its policy of non-interference in the socio-religious life of the Indians. Abolition of Sati (1829), Hindu Widow Remarriage Act (1856). Christian missionaries were allowed to enter India and carry on with their mission of proselytizing. The Religious Disabilities Act of 1850 modified the traditional Hindu law. According to it, the change in religion would not debar a son from inheriting the property of his heathen father. 

2. Economic Causes: British rule led to the breakdown of the village self-sufficiency, commercialization of agriculture which burdened the peasantry, adoption of free trade imperialism from 1800, de-industrialization, and drain of wealth all of which led to the overall decline of the economy.

3. Military Grievances: The extension of British dominion in India had adversely affected the service condition of the Sepoys. They were required to serve in an area away from their homes without the payment of extra Bhatta. An important cause of Military discontent was the General Service Enlistment Act, 1856, which made it compulsory for the sepoys to cross the seas, whenever required. The Post Office Act of 1854 withdrew the free postage facility for them.

4. Political Causes: The last major extension of the British Indian territory took place during the time of Dalhousie. Dalhousie announced in 1849, that the successor of Bahadur Shah II would have to leave the Red Fort. The annexation of Baghat and Udaipur was, however, canceled and they were restored to their ruling houses. When Dalhousie wanted to apply the Doctrine of Lapse to Karauli (Rajputana), he was overruled by the court of Directors.

Leaders Associated with the Revolt of 1857


Mangal Pandey


Bahadur Shah II, General Bakht Khan


Hakim Ahsanullah (Chief advisor to Bahadur Shah II)


Begum Hazrat Mahal, Birjis Qadir, Ahmadullah (advisor of the ex-Nawab of Awadh)


Nana Sahib, Rao Sahib (nephew of Nana), Tantia Tope, Azimullah Khan (advisor of Nana Sahib)


Rani Laxmibai

Bihar (Jagdishpur)

Kunwar Singh, Amar Singh

Allahabad and Banaras

Maulvi Liyakat Ali


Maulvi Ahmadullah (He declared the Revolt as Jihad against English)


Tufzal Hasan Khan


Mohammad Khan


Abdul Ali Khan


Khan Bahadur Khan


Firoz Shah


Tantia Tope


Kandapareshwar Singh, Manirama Datta


Surendra Shahi, Ujjwal Shahi


Raja Pratap Singh


Jaidayal Singh and Hardayal Singh


Gajadhar Singh


Sevi Singh, Kadam Singh

British Officials Associated with Revolt

General John Nicholson

Captured Delhi on 20th September 1857 (Nicholson died soon due to a mortal wound received during the fighting).

Major Hudson

Killed Bahadur Shah's sons and grandsons in Delhi.

Sir Hugh Wheeler

Defense against Nana Sahib's forces till 26th June 1857. British forces surrendered on 27th on the promised of safe conduct to Allahabad.

General Neil

Recaptured Banaras and Allahabad in June 1857. At Kanpur, he killed Indians as revenge against the killing of English by Nana Sahib's forces. Died at Lucknow while fighting against the rebels.

Sir Colin Campbell

Final recovery of Kanpur on 6th December, 1857. Final reoccupation of Lucknow on 21 st March, 1858. Recapture of Bareilly on 5th May, 1858.

Henry Lawrence

Chief Commissioner of Awadh. Who died during the seizure of British residency by rebels at Lucknow on 2nd July, 1857!

Major General Havelock

Defeated the rebels (Nana Sahib's force) on 17th July, 1857. Died at Lucknow in December 1857.

William Taylor and Eye

Suppressed the revolt at Arrah in August 1857.

Hugh Rose

Suppressed the revolt at Jhansi and recaptured Gwalior on 20th June, 1858. The whole of Central India and Bundelkhand was brought under British control by him.

Colonel Oncell

Captured Banaras.

Causes of Failure

1. Some of the local rulers like Scindia of Gwalior, the Holkar of Indore, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Raja of Jodhpur, the Nawab of Bhopal, the rulers of Patiala, Sindh, and Kashmir, and the Rana of Nepal provided active support to the British.

2. The military equipment of the rebels was inferior. Comparative lack of efficient leadership.

3. The modern intelligent Indians also didn't support the cause.

Impact of the Revolt

1. The revolt was mainly feudal in character carrying with it some nationalist elements.

2. The control of Indian administration was passed on to the British Crown by the Government of India Act, 1858.

3. The army was carefully reorganized to prevent the recurrence of such an event.

The Revolt of 1857 was an extremely important event in Indian history. It was merely a product of Sepoy but was accumulated grievances of the people against the Company’s administration and of their dislike for the foreign regime.

List of Non tribal, Tribal and peasant movements during British India

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