Why Do the Events of 1857-8 in India Matter?

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The events of 1857-8 are extremely significant and have changed India dramatically into the India we see today. We see the British taking over India from the East India Company after a ‘mutiny’ in 1857 and welcoming it into a colony in the British Empire. It was described as “the jewel in the crown” of the British Empire because of their rich sources such as silk that were deported from India to countries in Europe. This made Britain considerably richer and greedier as they increased their power by continuing to expand their empire. The British made many positive changes as well as negative changes in India during their rule such as introducing technology such as expanding railways for everyone to use, and education for some Indians. These are just a few changes that helped a trade-inspired outlook within India. Nevertheless, they also took advantage of the Indians by making money from their resources, charging them heavy taxes to use in Britain and sending many Indians to fight for Britain in the First World War. We see that many changes shaped the modern India today, but why do these changes matter to us? We find out much about British rule in India from the outbreak of fighting of the mutiny before 1857 as it tells us about how the East India Company forced strict rules and intervened upon the Hindu society such as ignoring their religious beliefs, which was one of the key factors leading up to the Indian ‘mutiny’. We see that although some changes did benefit from the Indians, the general attitude was negative, since all Indians were heavily taxed as discriminated. The way Britain changed from a trader to a ruler reveals to us how greedy Britain were at the time and how powerful as they could gain control of such a big country like India. We also can see how the British abused their power as they treated the Indians unfairly, as, in an account written by Vishnubhat Godse, an Indian who was living in the city of Jhansi in 1857, described how they British took power of it. He remarked that the English were “shooting down every man that they saw and setting fire to houses” while entering the city and described that “the terror in the city at this time was immeasurable” and that the “screaming and crying was endless”. We see that the Indians were portrayed as vulnerable and weak as the British took over. Furthermore, the British broke their own policy, the Doctrine of Lapse by taking over the city since the deceased prince did have an adopted son. This shows the desire for more territory overpowering the need to follow the treaties they had made with the princes of states and therefore ignoring their own rules. The corruption, ignorance and brutality within the East India Company showed that they were not successful in ruling as it caused the mutiny in 1857 and therefore made the Indians very unhappy.

The accounts of events of 1857 reveal to us that India was not ruled well, was a much divided country and that the citizens in general were not satisfied on being controlled by Britain . Many Indians were very unhappy about the British interfering in Hindu socio-religious affairs and charging them high taxes etc. However, many Indians benefited from British rule and profited much from trade. Europeans who had settled down in India were considered of a much higher class than the Indians and Indians were discriminated. This reveals how people in India all had different attitudes towards the British. We can see that by many different accounts of the outbreak of fighting in India. For example, an English clergyman’s wife describes in her diary the “horror” that the Indians have inflicted and how there was “heavy firing all day” and how “ten Europeans were killed”. However, another account from an Indian man, Vishnubhat Godse, claimed that he “was filled with dread” and that the English soldiers “tortured them, demanding rupees, gold, pearls or other valuables” and if they found those, they sometimes would let the innocent...
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