The Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857

The revolt of 1857 was a product of the character and policies of rule. The cumulative effect of British expansionist policies, economic exploitation and administrative innovations over the years had adversely affected the positions of all— rulers of Indian states, sepoys, zamindars, peasants, traders, artisans, pundits, maulvis, etc. The simmering discontent burst in the form of a violent storm in 1857 which shook the British empire in India to its very foundations. The causes of the revolt emerged from all aspects— socio-cultural, economic and political—of daily existence of Indian population cutting through all sections and classes. These causes are discussed below.

ECONOMIC CAUSES

The colonial policies of the East India Company destroyed the traditional economic fabric of the Indian society. The peasantry were never really to recover from the disabilities imposed by the new and a highly unpopular
revenue settlement (see chapter on “Economic Impact of British Rule in India” for details). Impoverished by heavy taxation, the peasants resorted to loans from moneylenders/traders at usurious rates, the latter
often evicting the former on non-payment of debt dues. These moneylenders and traders emerged as the new landlords. While the scourge of indebtedness has continued to plague Indian society to this day. British rule also meant misery to the artisans and handicraftsmen. The annexation of Indian states by the Company cut off their major source of patronage. Added to this, British policy discouraged Indian handicrafts and promoted British goods. The highly skilled Indian craftsmen were forced to look for alternate sources of employment that hardly

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