Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi

Why was 1857 a rebellion?

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Why not a War?

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What does it take to qualify as a war of independence?

I've not studied this aspect of 1857, and all I can do is give my impression or opinion from what I've read.

For me, the phrase 'war of independence' implies an overall organisation and agenda. Wars are fought by armies on behalf of governments of whatever type.

A rebellion is more spontaneous, it is what happens when people have finally had enough. At the personal level it's like a loss of temper, an outburst. Rebellions are grass roots affairs with no government as such and ad hoc forces, not trained armies. A rebellion will of course have leaders, or throw up leaders, and if any success is achieved then perforce it will result in a government being created and if hostilities continue, the rebellion may transform itself into a war.

It seems to me that the American War of Independence and the Englsh Civil War both started as rebellions and became Wars. But both of these had leaders who were themselves members of the ruling clique. It occurs to me that, in effect, a rebellion is a poor man's war.

Our knowledge of the organisation of 1857 is, at best, limited, but it seems to have had the grass roots and spontaneous nature of a rebellion. The leaders became leaders after the event, and not always willingly it seems. The Indian forces were predominantly civilian, not trained soldiers, and so on. If it had been a 'war of independence' it might have succeeded.

As for it being a -National- War of Independence, that requires a -nation-. India the nation still lay in the future. 1857 was of course the turning point in India's colonial history...

I hope this explains my state of mind on this, as I said it is a matter of opinion rather than research and study, and I'd be more than happy to hear an opposing view :)

My correspondent also mentioned the anger that some Indians feel because so few British were able to conquer and control so many Indians.

This I think is based on a myth, the myth that India has always been a united nation encompassing the whole of the sub-continent. When the Europeans arrived in the sub-continent, India was no more one nation than Europe. The British were able to conquer India by using one state against another, they did not have to take on the whole of India. This was the divide and conquer policy, so far as I know that policy did not apply at the local level, the British did not attempt to set Hindu against Moslem etc.. The last thing a governing power wants is civil unrest, No peace, no taxes, and a lot of expenditure. It was when a national Indian consciousness started to develop and assert itself that the British felt obliged to leave.

But what of Ashoka and others who controlled Empires that take in all of India? Conquering a people does not make them one nation, Once again Europe is not a nation despite having been mostly conquered on 3 occasions, by the Romans, French and Germans. India did not become one nation because of Ashoka.

The British did not control a single nation of India, indeed it was the development of that nation that ended their rule.

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Last modified: 2005-09-23 23:23:02.000000000