The Sepoy Mutiny Of 1857 Essay Research

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The Sepoy Mutiny Of 1857 Essay, Research Paper As with any conflict or controversy there are always two sides to the debate, and the events in India during 1857 are certainly no exception. Given the situation in India during the nineteenth century it is hardly surprising that such a polarisation of opinion exists regarding the context of the rebellious events during that year. The British being in control of the subcontinent and their sense of superiority over their Indian subjects, would naturally seek to downplay any acts of rebellion. While the Indian subjects on the other hand would arguably wish to exaggerate and over emphasise the importance of these events, as a means of promoting the nationalist cause for self determination. The truth of the events themselves, does it

lie towards the British account or the Indian pro nationalistic side, or could there be a certain amount of truth in both sides of the debate. Metcalf in his account cites three indisputable factors behind the outbreak of rebellion in 1857. Primarily he sees `accumulating grievances of the Sepoy Army of Bengal’ as the most important factor. The reasons behind this `deterioration of morale’ amongst the army lay with several reasons. Much of the Sepoy army was comprised of `Brahmins and other high caste Hindus’ who assisted in promoting a `focus of sedition’. The `generally poor standard of British officers’, plus the lack of improvement to the overall position of those men serving in the army also increased the level of tension. At this point it should be remembered that

the `Bengal Army differed from those of Bengal and Madras’, as the Bombay and Madras armies took no part in the rebellion of 1857. But the more pronounced military factor was the lack of British troops in the `Gangetic plain’ meant that many areas were `virtually denuded of British troops’. These military grievances which although significant were not themselves enough to incite rebellion, as it took a perceived attack on the Sepoy religious institutions to trigger of the rebellion. The first of these perceived threats was that the British government was preparing to dismantle the caste system and `convert them forcibly to Christianity’. Although not based on fact the actions of some `pious British officers did nothing to dispel’ the rumours to the contrary. Added to

this British lethargy was the Brahmins who tended to be `peculiarly watchful for potential threats to their religion and caste’. Secondly, the introduction in 1857 of the `new Enfield rifle’ with its distinct ammunition, which required the bullet to be `bitten before loading’. Rumours that the grease used on the bullets was either from the fat of cattle or pigs, which either proved `sacred to Hindus’ or `pollution to Muslims’, was interpreted as attacking at the core of the Hindu and Muslim religious beliefs. These rumours unlike those regarding the conversion to Christianity and dismantling of the caste system, did prove to have a factual basis, as the British government `withdrew the objectionable grease’. This belated action proved futile as the damage had already

been done. However this only accounts for the military aspects of the uprising which display the version of events `accepted in official circles [as] basically army mutinies’. This version preferred by the British fails to acknowledge the level of `widespread unrest among the civilian population’, who saw much of the British government’s actions as amounting to interference and contempt for the `long established rules and customs’. Disraeli saw the causes of the uprising as not being the `conduct of men who were … the exponents of general discontent’ amongst the Bengal army. For Disraeli the root cause was the overall administration by the government, which he regarded as having `alienated or alarmed almost every influential class in the country’. Yet other British