The Indian Uprising of 1857

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Madeleine Godchaux
Anth. 4002
Bose & Jalal Chapter 9 Presentation
Neither military mutiny nor civil revolts were uncommon in colonial India. However, as Bose and Jalal describe in chapter 9, the revolt of 1857 was unique in character due to the convergence of multiple strands of resistance, the expansion of scale, and the new level of intensity. The company’s army was mercenary in nature and its members were becoming more and more unhappy with the British, suffering from a deep sense of social and economic unease. The catalyst of the sepoys’ disaffection occurred when they refused to load rifles containing cartridges greased in pig and cow fat (repulsive to Hindus and Muslims alike). The soldiers who refused were sentenced to imprisonment. In direct response to this, mutineers based in Meerut marched to Delhi where they installed Mughal emperor Bhadur Shah Zafr as the symbolic head of the revolt. The focus points of the rebellion were located to the North in Delhi, to the East in Awadh, and in central India. But by and large, the 1857 revolt was confined to the northern Indian Gangetic plain and central India.

The uprising, in its aristocratic, religious and agrarian aspects, was underpinned by feelings of regional patriotism, a vague sense of nationalism and the shared objective of putting an end to colonial rule. The aspiration for freedom among the rulers and aristocrats was expressed at the indigenous courts in the context of a legitimist reaction to British deceit. These aristocratic leaders were offering those who were prepared to follow them into rebellion the legitimacy of a resurrected 18th century state system under the highest sovereignty of the Mughal emperor. However, this proved to be a source of weakness due to the fact that inter-state rivalries of the 18th century were mirrored in 1857.

Hindus and Muslims shared the common threat of British oppression as well as a common loss of country sentiment. Muslim religious...
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