Quick Notes on Revolt of 1857: Military Factors

The revolt of 1857 is an important marker in Indian History and is an area where questions have repeatedly featured in the Civil Services (Prelims) and Civil Services (Mains) Examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Here we briefly outline the Military factors which helped cause the revolt.

Military Causes of Revolt of 1857

1. The Indian military was not a professional military- they were just peasants in uniform. Thus every impact on peasantry had large repercussions in the form of military discontentment.

2. Also, the policies followed by Lord Dalhousie and Lord Canning greatly hurt the sentiments of the Indian military.

3. The Indian military was already largely discriminated against in terms of salaries, pensions, promotions. Indians were subjugated in the military while their European counterparts faced no such discrimination. During the time of Lord Canning, two important laws were passed: Both these acts were passed in 1856, i.e. on the eve of revolt.

  1. General Service Enlistment Act a) This act meant that if Indian military personnel were posted abroad, they wouldn’t be entitled to get extra allowances. b) Thus this act was a jolt to the prospects to the Indian military personnel serving under the East India Company.
  2. Religious Disabilities Act a) For Indian soldiers, the belief was that if they crossed the ocean, they would lose their religion. They would thus be socially ostracized. b) Thus, Hindu soldiers skipped appointments that involved serving in a foreign land. c) But, after the passing of the “Religious Disabilities Act”, they would have to compulsorily take the appointment, otherwise, they would lose their job. d) At the same time, the use of religious symbols in the military were also restricted.

Thus, there was a high degree of discontentment among the Indians with the passing of these acts.

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