The Sepoy Rebellion was a revolt by Indian sepoys (soldiers) against the rule of the British East India Company. The rebellion began in 1857 in the city of Meerut and quickly spread to Delhi. Though the rebellion was ultimately quashed, it led to the collapse of the British East India Company and ushered in a wave of Indian Nationalism.
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PORK FAT/BEEF FAT
Although the rebellion was the consequence of years of conflict between the British East India Company and the Indian people, the immediate conflict was sparked when the British East India Company switched to a new type of cartridge for their Enfield rifles. The cartridges, it was rumored, were greased with a mixture of pork and beef fat. This was offensive to many sepoys (Indian soldiers for the company), most of whom were either Hindu or Muslim.
DOCTRINE OF LAPSE
Another major cause of the rebellion was the Doctrine of Lapse. This policy, set forth by Lord Dalhousie, allowed the British government to annex any Indian state whose ruler died without a male heir or who was declared “incompetent”, leading to many Indian states losing self-rule. At the conclusion of the Sepoy Rebellion, the British government repealed the policy.
Mangal Pandey was a sepoy soldier considered to be the first casualty of the rebellion. At a parade ground in Barrackpore, he attacked a superior officer in an attempt to launch the rebellion. When he was captured, he attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He survived but was hanged a week later.
During the rebellion, the city of Delhi was subjected to siege for two and a half months. At the conclusion of the Siege of Delhi, British commander William Hodson captured three princes (the sons and grandsons of Bahadur Shah II, the Mughal ruler). Hodson then ordered the three princes stripped and executed publicly at the so-called Bloody Gate.
SIEGE OF LUCKNOW
The other major conflict in the rebellion was the five month long Siege of Lucknow. The British Governor Henry Lawrence was trapped in the Residency, the British administrative complex in Lucknow. After an unsuccessful attempt to break the siege by British commander Henry Havelock, it was ultimately broken by British commander Colin Campbell.
Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
* The British National Army Museum has a great website devoted to the Sepoy Rebellion with some great visuals.
* You can read a scholarly take on the Sepoy Rebellion here:
* Listen to an episode of the “Stuff You Missed in History Class” podcast focused on the Sepoy Rebellion below:
* Watch a brief but thorough summary of the Sepoy Rebellion below:
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