Explain how the upraising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.

Sample Answer


The upraising of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence or the Sepoy Mutiny, was a major armed rebellion against the British East India Company’s rule in India. It proved to be a turning point in the evolution of British colonial policies in India.


Major Policy Changes

End of East India Company’s rule

  • After suppressing the rebellion, the British Crown took over the governance of India from the East India Company in 1858 through the Government of India Act.
  • This marked a shift from indirect colonialism under the Company to direct colonialism under the Crown.

Policy of appeasement

  • To prevent another mass rebellion, the British adopted a policy of appeasement towards princely states, zamindars and service gentry by conferring titles, honours and privileges on them. For example, most princely states were made salute states.

Divide and rule policy

  • The British actively fomented and exploited communal divisions between Hindus and Muslims to remain as neutral umpire between communities.
  • For instance, separate electorates for Muslims were introduced in 1909. This divide and rule policy became the hallmark of British rule.

Infrastructure development 

  • After 1857, the British heavily invested in transport and communication infrastructure like railways, roads, post and telegraph to facilitate trade, movement of troops and better administration of India.

Education reform

  • The English education system was promoted with a focus on humanities and liberal arts instead of scientific and technical education to create a class of obedient Indian bureaucrats. Eg: Universities like Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were established.


The watershed event of 1857 led the British to transition from ‘traders’ to ‘rulers’ and enact major administrative, political and economic reforms aimed at consolidating their colonial control over India.

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