The 1857 rebellion was the biggest uprising against British rule in India in the 19th century. However, it was not a spontaneous rebellion but the culmination of a series of local uprisings over the preceding century that had plagued the British.
Major rebellions before 1857
- In 1763, three Indian rulers led a revolt against the British East India Company.
- In 1794, the Raja of Travancore revolted over the issue of the Munro system.
- In 1806, the Sepoys at Vellore fort revolted over new rules banning religious marks.
- The Santhals in 1855 and Gonds in 1846-47 revolted due to oppressive policies.
- British conquests, land grabs and monopolies disrupted the economy.
- High taxes, crops failures and famines exacerbated poverty.
- Discriminatory laws, social reforms and conversion efforts offended religious sensibilities.
- All these caused resentment, especially among the sepoys, peasants and zamindars.
Outbreak and culmination
- The 1857 rebellion originated with the sepoys over rumors about new cartridges greased with cow and pig fat.
- However, it spread due to the prevailing discontent. Zamindars, peasants and sepoys joined in this massive uprising, culminating in the rebellion that nearly shook the British out of India.
Although apparently ignited by a minor issue of cartridges, the Great Revolt of 1857 was the result of a century of growing resentment against British rule due to economic exploitation, social interference and humiliating policies. It culminated the recurrent rebellions, uniting diverse groups in a movement of unprecedented scale and intensity in the history of British India.