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The Sepoy Rebellion

The Sepoy Rebellion is known variously as the Indian Mutiny and the First War for Indian Independence. It took place in 1857, with the mutiny by Indian troops, known as Sepoys, who were employed by the British East Indian Company to help control, its interests. The company had established an army with over 200,000 soldiers, mainly drawn from South Asians, who were supervised by about 40,000 British troops. (Richard W. Bulliet et al) The Indian revolt was sparked by the introduction of new Enfield rifles, which required the user to bite off the head of the cartridges, before loading.

Problem was that the heads were lubricated with a mixture of lard from pigs and cows which the soldiers found very offensive because they were Muslim and Hindu. A section of the army refused to load their guns and as a result was given long prison sentences. The remainder of the army responded to this by rebelling and shooting British army officers, then marching to New Delhi in protest. The revolt soon spread to other parts of the country, and the cities of Agra, Cawnpore Lucknow joined in.

The army did not only carry out the revolt, but the peasants joined in as well because of their bitterness against the imposition of taxes and torture by the British. (Richard W. Bulliet et al) The British were able to contain the revolt after a series of bloody encounters,, however, they introduced some policy reforms to the country. First of all, the East India Company was abolished and India was placed under the direct rule of the British government. This was done through the Government of India Act of 1858. . (Richard W. Bulliet et al)

Secondly, the Indian traditional rulers known as rajahs were recognized and some treaties between them and the British were made. They were also assured that the territorial annexations that were taking place before would be halted. At the same time, the mogul of India, who was the titular emperor of India known as Bahadur Shah was deposed, effectively ending almost 200 years of Muslim rule in the country. The Indian people were also promised religious freedom, and assured that their religious and cultural rights would be respected and recognized.

(Richard W. Bulliet et al) In another development, the much hated doctrine of Lapse, which had denied adopted children the right to take their adopted parents title after their death, was revoked and the titles were recognized. . (Richard W. Bulliet et al) Other policy changes include the Indian Councils Act of 1861, by the Viceroys Council was given more power and the central legislature was given more slot to accommodate the Indians.

With this also came a new Agrarian policy known as the Bengal Rent Act guaranteed security of tenure for the farm holders. It also fixed the rent rates and the farm holders were spared of the previously tedious settlements and demands from the state. Furthermore, another policy was introduced aimed at levying new taxes so as to expand the revenue base. Some of the taxes introduced include the personal income tax, the tobacco tax and professional license tax.. (Richard W. Bulliet et al) Finally, some reforms were made to the financial system, which was decentralized, with some of the taxation duties given to local government. . (Richard W. Bulliet et al)


Richard W. Bulliet, Pamela Kyle Crossley,Daniel R. Headrick,Steven W. Hirsch,Lyman L. Johnson. (1997) The Earth and its Peoples: a Global History, Volume 2: since 1500 Fourth Edition, ISBN,0-618-77151-4, Boston, Houghton Mifflin.

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