The Indian Uprising/ Sepoy Mutiny of 1857
Dr. Hazel Hahn
Although the British had denied it over the next few months they had lost control of much of north-central India. There were civil rebellions along with the military rebellion which intensified the tone to an all-out popular revolt that enveloped all classes of the population. At that time, the total amount of British forces in India was about 40,000, a relatively small number. They could do little to curb the progress of the revolt. Rebel forces took Delhi, Lucknao, and Kanpur in the spring and summer of 1857 establishing the cities as the three most important centers of revolt.
It wasn’t long before the British counter-rebellion ...view middle of the document...
The rebellion greatly influenced popular opinions of the Indians and the East India Company in Britain. An expansion of British media allowed the events of the rebellion to reach a mass audience in Britain. The British used the events of the rebellion as a way to provide proof of the racial depravity of the mutinous sepoys. This was donewhile also justifying vengeance on a scale that might have otherwise provoked moral outrage in Britain. The British also silenced any competing narratives about the rebellion, putting in their place narratives that depicted the British response to the rebellion as righteous.
British morale went up as they their support grew, and they won many more battles than before. Some British troops adopted a policy of “no prisoners” so any rebels found were executed often brutally. Many rebels were hung or faced a firing squad as punishment. Some others though faced much more gruesome punishments, such as being blown from a cannon. A process in which the prisoner would be placed before the mouth of a cannon and blown to pieces. The end of the rebellion was followed by the mass execution of combatants from the Indian side as well as large numbers of civilians perceived to be sympathetic to the rebel cause. The British press and government did not advocate clemency of any kind.
The East India Company invaded India with such forceful lack of respect for the native Indian culture that the Rebellion now seems to have been inevitable. The Company’s first mistake was treating the sepoy and Indian civilians not as people but as sources of cheap labor. Had they also respected the deeply engrained traditions and culture of the Indian people they may not have suffered through the violent Rebellion. Prejudices were also encouraged and strengthened as a result of the Rebellion and one sided media coverage. Historians must study the passionate accounts of the Rebellion to piece together what happened.