Explain how the uprising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.

The British policies of expansion, economic exploitation, administrative resolution adversely affected all classes of the society i.e. Zamindar, tenants, artisans, traders, maulvis, etc. The disagreement over British policies is responsible for forming the uprising of 1857, which shook the entire British empire.

The revolt caused many changes in the system of British policy and administration

Transfer of power: Right after the revolt, the British government started realizing the intensity of the mass movement in India. To restrict any further movement, the British Crown took possession of the administration, and the company rule was abolished.

It was announced by the then governor-general of India, Lord canning at Allahabad Durbar in 1858. The Act for better government of India, 1858 was ratified. It was decided that the authority of India would be exercised by a Secretary of State for India and his council.

Cessation of annexation policy: The British Government stopped its annexation and expansion policy and started focusing on consolidation.

Military administration: The British tried to divide the military troops according to different communities.

Division in provincial administration: British divided India into Bengal, Bombay and Madras Presidencies. The Governor and his Executive Council were responsible to look after the administration.

Divide and Rule policy: The British government tried to use the Muslim community against the Hindus and the national movements. Their initial support was for the Hindus but later after 1870, they changed their stance and started favoring the Muslims to restrict any kind of ally between the two communities.

Infrastructure development: The post revolt phase witnessed the introduction of the railway in 1853, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 to connect England and India, the Telegraphy system in 1870.

Decentralization: In 1870, Lord Mayo started the decentralization tendency for revenue. Later Lord Rippon further extended the process.

Civil Service: In 1853, the maximum age for appearing in civil service was 23. It was reduced to 22 in 1860, 21 in 1866, and 19 in 1876. It was impossible for an Indian to appear in this examination in England at the age of 19.

The revolt did not get success due to the absence of all India participation, absence of all classes, poor arms, Lack of execution plan, etc. But despite being a failure it frightened the British and introduced many changes.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Explain how the uprising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.

Published: December 5, 2016 | Modified:August 15, 2020