Quick Notes on Revolt of 1857: Political and Economic 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 outline the various political and economic factors that helped cause the revolt. This is an important segment in modern Indian history for IAS exam.

Political Factors (Political causes of Revolt of 1857 in points)

1. a) Due to the British expansionist policies, most of the Raja’s, Nawab’s and the zamindar’s, were either dispossessed from their state or became subsidiary to the British. b) The East India Company (EIC) had a planned way of expansionism and many Indian states easily fell prey to the policies of the East India Company. c) The policy of Trade and Commerce subjugated the state, the policy of indirect subordination (subsidiary alliance), policy of war and annexation, policy of direct subordination (doctrine of lapse), policy of misgovernance (in which Awadh was annexed). d) These policies greatly hampered the interests of the rulers of the native states, and they one by one became victims of British expansionism. e) Therefore, those rulers, who lost their states to the British, were naturally against the British and took sides against them during the revolt. f) However, some of the rulers were in active connivance and collaborated with the British in suppressing the revolt.

2. The period of Dalhousie (1848-1856) is marked as a major factor in the revolt of 1857. A famous policy under his period was ‘Doctrine of Lapse’. Under this, many states, like Satara, Jaitpur, Sambhalpur, Jhansi, were captured by the British who expanded recklessly. Thus the political factors, i.e. expansionary policy of the British greatly contributed towards the revolt of 1857. 3. The other factor was that Indian judges were not allowed to try the criminal cases of Europeans- thus discrimination was at all levels.

Revolt of 1857 Causes: Economic

Economic Factors (Economic Causes of Revolt of 1857):

  1. This was a vital factor as it affected a large section of Indian society. Ever since the grant of Diwani was made to the British in 1765, land revenue became an issue of much burden. British Government had imposed ‘pocket area transformation’, that means, introduction of Permanent Settlement in Bengal, Mahalwari settlement in Central India, and Ryotwari settlement in southern India.
  2. These three settlements were highly exploitative, and in particular, the Permanent settlement had created a devastating impact.
  3. But the high rates of land revenue, ruined the prospects of Indian peasantry. Thus the peasants were greatly encouraged to overthrow the British Government from India. The ‘Drain of Wealth’ impoverished peasants and they thus participated actively in the revolt of 1857.

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