NATURE OF THE REVOLT OF 1857
The Revolt of 1857 began on 10th May 1857 when the 11th and 20th Native Cavalry of the Bengal Army, assembled in Meerut, turned on their commanding officers. They then made their way to Delhi and on 11th May captured the Red Fort. Bahadur Shah Zafar II, who had been reduced to being a pensioner of the English East India Company, was proclaimed the Emperor of Hindustan and leader of the rebellion. Following this, the revolt spread to several other parts of India. By the end of 1857, however, the British began to regain ground. The revolt finally came to an end in 1858.
The Revolt of 1857 was fundamentally different from earlier instances of rebellion by the soldiers in the 19th century. Prior to this, the mutinies had remained sporadic or local affairs. However, unlike these, the scale and spread of the Revolt of 1857 was larger - sepoys at many centers mutinied and this was accompanied by civil disturbances. The extent of the revolt was mostly over North, Central and Western India. Southern India, Punjab and Bengal did not witness any serious disturbance. Some of the leaders of the revolt were - Nana Sahib, the adopted son of the Peshwa Baji Rao II, at Kanpur; Begum Hazrat Mahal at Lucknow; Khan Bahadur at Rohilkhand; Rani Lakshmibai at Jhansi; the zamindar, Kunwar Singh at Arrah; and Tantia Tope at Bareilly.
Another question that is discussed is whether the revolt was a planned conspiracy or a spontaneous unorganized outbreak. In the 19th century, in the British narratives of the mutiny, the activities of the sepoys were written about as something disorderly and chaotic - the work of disloyal soldiery. Malleson claimed to demonstrate that the 1857 outbreak had a premeditated design at a level of leadership outside and above that of the sepoy regiments, a plot which misfired only in its actual timing. More recently, Eric Stokes has argued that the mutinies were “the work of a small minority; the mutinies were the...