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Friday, 2 October 2020







Ø The 1857 Revolt is an important part of the Indian history that began as a sepoy mutiny of the British East India Company. Though it was first started in the town of Meerut but later it was erupted into all the other mutinies. The major aggressions were happened to the present-day northern Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi region.


Ø Revolt 1857 started with a Mutiny occurred in Meerut by refusal of new rifle. They suspected that new rifle is filled with fat of Pig and Cow.

Ø On 10 May 1857, the sepoys of Meerut cantonment killed the British officer and seized the bell of arms and plundered the treasury. They attacked government buildings-the jail, court, post office, telegraph office, bungalows, treasury etc.


Ø Then they marched to Delhi and appealed to the Mughal Emperor Bahdur Shah II to accept the leadership of the revolt. Finding no other option, he accepted the demand of the sepoys. Thus the revolt secured a kind of legitimacy because it could be carried on in the name of the Mughal emperor.

Ø After that it spread cantonment to cantonment and then in different cities.


1801 -Subsidiary Alliance introduced by Wellesley in Awadh

1856 -Nawab Wajid Ali Shah deposed; Awadh annexed

1856-57 -Summary revenue settlements introduced in Awadh by the British


10 May -Mutiny starts in Meerut

11-12 May -Delhi garrisons revolt; Bahadur Shah accepts nominal leadership

20-27 May -Sepoys mutiny in Aligarh, Etawah, Mainpuri, Etah

30 May- Rising in Lucknow

May-June -Mutiny turns into a general revolt of the people

30 June -British suffer defeat in the battle of Chinhat

25 Sept British forces under Havelock and Outram enter the Residency in Lucknow

July -Shah Mal killed in battle

June 1858-Rani Jhansi killed in battle


Ø In every cantonment sepoy followed a similar pattern as-

§  The sepoys began their action with a signal like firing of gun or the sounding of the bugle

§  They seized the bell of arms and plundered the treasury.

§  They attacked government buildings-the jail, court, post office, telegraph office, bungalows, treasury etc.

§  Proclamations were put up in the cities to call upon the all people, to unite, rise and exterminate the firangis.

§  When ordinary people started to join in towns, money lenders and the rich also became the objects of rebel anger. Their houses were looted and destroyed.

§  The mutiny in the sepoy ranks now turned to a rebellion. The rebels defied all kinds of authority and hierarchy.


Ø Similar pattern of the revolt in different cantonment show that there was communication between the sepoys’ lines of various cantonments.  

Ø For example, the 7th Awadh Irregular Cavalry had refused to accept the new cartridge. The matter they informed to the 48th Native Infantry.

Ø Sepoys moved from one station to another. People talked about the rebellion.


Ø It is very difficult to provide answer to such question. However, some events provide hints to how the mutinies were organized.

Ø For example, when Awadh Military Police refused to kill Captain Hearsey, it was decided that the matter would be settled by a panchayat composed of Indian officers selected from each regiment.

Ø Charles Ball who wrote about revolt pointed out that the panchayats were assembled during night in the Kanpur sepoy lines and decisions were taken collectively.

Ø The sepoys lived in lines and shared a common lifestyle and many of them came from the same caste, so, it is not difficult to say that they have planned the revolt.


Ø The rebels needed leadership and organization to fight against the British and to legitimate their rebelled. That’s why the soldiers of Meerut appealed to old Mughal emperor to accept the leadership of revolt. At first, he rejected this demand. But when the sepoys defied the Mughal court etiquette in the Red Fort, he agreed to be the nominal leader of the rebellion. It gave a great impact to this rebel.

Ø In Kanpur, Nana Sahib, the successor of Peshwa Baji Rao II became the leader of the revolt.

Ø In Jhansi, Rani lakshmi Bai assumed the leadership of the uprising.

Ø  In Arrah in Bihar, Kunwarsingh, a local zamindar became leader under popular pressure.

Ø In lucknow people declare Birjis Qadr, son of the earlier Awadh Wajid Ali Shah, as their leader and start struggle against Britishers under wife of Nawab Begam Hazarat Mahal.

Ø When the rebel spread in these cities many local leaders were also emerged from many areas and urged the peasants, zamindars and tribals to revolt. Many ordinary persons also join the rebel. So, the mutiny change into a popular rebel.

§  Shah Mal organized the villagers of pargana Barout in Uttar Pradesh.

§  Gonoo, a tribal cultivator of Singhbhum in Chotanagapur, emerged as a rebel leader of the Kol tribals of the region.

§  Maulvi Ahmadullah Shah become the popular leader of rebel from Faizabad, UP.

§  It was also told that the sepoys of Meerut also meet a Fakir.







Bahadur Shah Zafar

Leader of revolt 1857, His wife Zeenat Mahal and general Bakht khan also participated



Nana Saheb,

Adopted son of Peshaw Bazi Roa II



Rani Laxmi Bai

Britishers refused to give the permission to adopt a son



Tantaya Tope

A general of Nana saheab



Birjis Qadr, son Of Nwab wazid Ali Shah,

Mother of Brijis Qadr ,Begum Hazrat Mahal fought on behalf of his son



Kunwar singh

80-year-old zamindar fought


Ramgarh, Mandla region of Madhya Pradesh,


Avantibai Lodhi

She led an army of 4000 soldiers against britishers.





A maulvi who raised a huge force of his supporters.



Bakht Khan


He was a soldier who led a movement.


Barout (UP)

Shah Mal

Orgained the villagers




Rebel leader of Kol tribes



v Rumours and prophecies played an important role to involve the people in the rebel. There were many rumours and prophecies spread over in north India during 1857.

Ø There was a rumour that the new cartridges were filled with the fat of cows and pigs which would pollute their religion of Hindu and Muslims.

Ø It was also the rumours that the British trying to destroy the religion of Indians by mixing the bone dust of cows and pigs into the flour led people to avoid touching the flour.

Ø It was also said that chapattis were being distributed from village to village in North India which symbolised the preparation of rebel against Britishers.

Ø The prophecies about the British rule also spread that it come to an end on the centenary of the Battle of Plassey also reinforced the call for a revolt against the masters (23 June 1857).

v Though all the rumours are spread very fast weather they are factually true or false. Britishers try to allay their fears, but in vain. The people started to believe in these rumours and peripheries because they have fear in their mind towards the changes occurred by Britishers as-These rumours were associated with the policies of the Britishers which started by in 1820s.

Ø Introduction the western education, college, schools, university in large scale create doubt among that they destroy the Indian education system.

Ø Lord William Bentinck reform policy also feared the people. Bann on sati system in 1829 and to permit the widow remarriage make their doubt.

Ø The annex of many Indian kingdoms like Jhansi, Stara , Nagpur etc under the doctrine of policy of Lord Dalhausi and established their own rule and administration also made the people suspicious of British intentions.

Ø People started to think that all things which they respect or care are being destroyed and replaced by a more impersonal, alien and oppressive system.

Ø On the same time the activities of Christian missionaries also created doubt and discomfort.

Ø So once the rumours spread the people started to believe because these were associated with their fear.


Ø Subsidiary Alliance was a system introduced by Lord Wellesley in 1798.All the Indian rulers become the alloy of East India company who has signed on this alliance and have to follow same terms as-

§  According to the alliance ally would be protected by the British.

§  A British armed contingent would be stationed in a territory of the king who has signed on this alliance.

§  The ally would have to provide the resources for maintaining this contingent.

§  The ally could enter into agreements with other rulers or engage in warfare only with the permission of the British.

§  The ally had to keep the resident who was the representative of the Governor General and was not under direct British rule.

§  Many Indian territory were taken under this alliance as Hyderabad, Awadh, Mysore, Pune, Gwalior etc.


§  Dalhousie described the kingdom of Awadh as “a cherry that will drop into our mouth one day”.

§  The annexation of Awadh in different stages. In 1801, Subsidiary Alliance had been imposed on Awadh.

§  By this the Nawab lost their control and became dependent of the British.


§  But it was not enough as Awadh soil was good for growing indigo and cotton and was ideally located for trade. So, they keen to acquire this area.

§  Finally, it was annexed on the grounds of maladministration in 1856 by Lord Dalhousie and dethrone the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.


Ø Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was displaced and exiled to Calcutta. They accused that Nawab is not able to governed.

Ø There was widespread emotional upheaval at his dethronement. Contemporary writers observed that “The life was gone out of the body, and the body of this town had been left lifeless...”Folk song mourned that “the honourable English came and took the country”.

Ø He was so admired by his people that his subjects followed him all the way to Kanpur singing songs of lament.

Ø The displacement of Nawab created the great impact on the livelihood of the people as musicians, dancers, poets, artisans, cooks, retainers, administrative officials and so on – lost their livelihood.


Ø After the displacement of Nawab British raj was established in Awadh. It created the great impact on the livelihood of the people such as musicians, dancers, poets, artisans, cooks, retainers, administrative officials, and so on. We will see effects on Taluqdars, peasants, sepoys.


§  Taluqdars were the administrators of the talauq from their generations. They enjoyed a autonomy under the suzerainty of the Nawab.

§  Many taluqdars had armies of about 12,000-foot soldiers and even the smaller ones had armies of about 200.

§  They also have their own large estates and forts.


Ø The British did not tolerate the power of the taluqdars. So, they used different strategy to destroyed the power of talauqdars-

§  They were disarmed and their best forts were destroyed.

§  They introduced the new revenue system known as Summary Settlement in 1856.

§  According to this the land was taken from the talauqdars because Britishers blamed that they had acquired the land by force and fraud.

§  By this settlement British told that they will settle the land with the owners of land and reduce their exploitation. They also wanted to increase the revenue returns to the state.

§  But in actual practice, this did not happen-although the revenues increased, the burden on the peasants did not reduce. Officials soon found out that there was increase in revenue rates from 30 to 70 percent and large areas of Awadh were heavily over assessed.


Ø In pre-British times peasant and talauqdars were ties with loyalty and patronage. Though they were oppressor

§  Many of them also as a generous father figure.

§  They received a variety of dues from the peasant but were often considerate in times of need.

§  They also gave them allowance or loan on festivals.

Ø But the displacement of Talauqdars break the social order and peasants were greatly affected as

§  Now the peasant was directly exposed to overassessment of revenue.

§  There was no longer any guarantee that in times of hardship or crop failure the revenue demand would be reduced or collection postponed.

§  They would not get the loan in times of festivities.

§  So, peasant largely supported to the rebels when occurred in 1857 in Lucknow.


§  Sepoys were recruited in large scale from the villages of Awadh. So, Awadh was called “the nursery of the Bengal Army”. Initially their relations with Britishers were good-

§  Before revolt, Indian sepoys were the good friend of British officers.

§  They were often played with them and also know Hindi and follow their customs and traditions.

§   They were regarded as disciplinarian and father figure.

Ø But after 1840s, this relationship underwent a drastic change, and Trust was replaced by suspicion.

§  British officers considering their Indian sepoys as racially inferior and riding roughshod over their sensibilities.

§  Abuse and physical violence became common and thus the distance between sepoys and officers grew.


§  As we know that the sepoys were recruited form different villages. Majority of the sepoys of the Bengal Army were recruited from the villages of Awadh and eastern Uttar Pradesh. So Awadh was called as “nursery of the Bengal Army’’.

§  They worried about the changes created in rural areas and also discussed the problems.

§  The sepoys also complained about the difficulty of getting leave, misbehaviour and racial abuse of their white officers.

§  That’s why, when the sepoys took up arms they were joined by the peasants and ordinary persons.



Ø Most of the evidences and sources of rebellion are produced and circulated by the Britishers in which they represented the rebels as a bunch of ungrateful and barbaric people.

Ø We have very little sources of rebels prospective as most of them were illiterate.

Ø Though, many Proclamations and ishtahars (notifications) were issued by the rebels which focused on their desires and wishes.

Ø We also come to know about their desires by established new rules and authority on the conquered areas.


Ø The vision of unity was clearly visible in the proclamations and  ishtahars (notifications) which were issued by rebel leaders show. For example, the Azamgarh Proclamation of 25 August 1857.


Ø The rebels tried to get the support of all sections of the society irrespective of their caste and creed by presenting the forefront memories of the pre-British Hindu Muslim past.

Ø The proclamation issued by Bahadur Shah appealed to the people to join the fight under the standards of both Muhammad and Mahavir.

Ø The British attempt to create a wedge between them but the rebels tried to materialize their vision of unity.

Ø Rebels declared that the British policies dispossessed landlords, peasants, weavers, artisans, Indian sepoys. So, we should reject everything associated with British rule.

Ø The proclamations expressed the widespread fear that the they destroyed their religion by converting them into Christianity

Ø They condemned the British for the annexations they had carried out and the treaties they had broken.

Ø They wanted to restore the previous life where livelihood to be secure.


Ø We also come know about their ambitions by seeing the administration setup of rebels in the conquered areas.

Ø They set up parallel administration in Delhi, Lucknow and Kanpur. Though it collapsed later. But it provides their vision.

Ø Appointments were made to various posts. Arrangements were made for the collection of land revenue and the payments of soldiers. Along with plans were made to fight battles against the British.

Ø This shows that they wanted to restore the pre-British world of the 18th century and to establish the culture of the court.


Ø The rebel started from a mutiny on 10 may 1857 but soon it spread in all over north India and many cities were conquered by the rebels. These areas were brought under control only in March 1858 after protracted fighting. To supress the revolt they have passed many new rules -

§  The British passed a series of laws to help them quell the insurgency. Martial law was imposed in almost all north India.

§  Military officers and even ordinary Britons were given extra power to try and punish Indians suspected of rebellion.

§  The processes of law and trial were suspended and it was declared that rebellion would have only one punishment –death.

§  The British used military power on a gigantic scale. But this was not the only instrument they used.

§  The British tried to break up the unity by promising to give back to the big land holders their estates who supported to Britishers. Rebel landholders were dispossessed and the loyal rewarded.


Ø To know about the rebel we have to focus on all the sources available. We know that we very few records on the rebels’ point of view. But we have much sources form the side of Britishers as letters, diaries, autobiographies and official documents, images, histories. Etc. These tell us about the fears and anxieties of officials and their perception of the rebels.

Ø Pictorial images as paintings, pencil drawings, etchings, posters, cartoons, bazaar prints etc. produced by the British and Indians became the important source to know about the revolt.


Ø British produced the variety of images to provoke a range of different emotions and reactions the British heroes who saved the English and repressed the rebels.

Ø These images emphasise that the time of trouble had ended and they had re-established their power.


Ø For example, Relief of Lucknow painted by Thomas Jones Barker is an example. It represents the siege of Lucknow by mutineers and celebrating the British victories by their heroes-Campbell, Outram and Havelock.

Ø The gestures of the heroes, triumphant horses, damaged Residency, and dead and injured on the ground emphasised the British power.


Ø As we know that Newspaper reports create the public opinion and shaped the feelings and attitudes towards the events.

Ø When the news of violence against women and children spread in Britain people demanding the revenge. The artiest also started to shaped these sentiments through their visual representations.

Ø One famous painting the Memorium painted by Joseph Noel Paton depicts English women and children huddled in a circle, looking helpless and innocent, seemingly waiting for the inevitable – dishonour, violence and death.

Ø These images stir up the spectator’s imagination, and seeks to provoke anger and fury. It represents the rebels as violent and brutish.

Ø In some image women were shown as heroic figure. For example in Ms.wheeler’s painting- she is defending herself against the Sepoys at Cawnpore'. It also shown as a battle to save the honour of Christianity as the Bible is laying on the ground.

Ø Punch (Magazine) Cartoons published in Britain (1857)-“Justice”,


Ø Visual representations and news about the revolt increase the waves of anger against the rebellions and Now it was seen that for the justice and British honour the rebels to be supressed ruthlessly.


Ø So, innumerable pictures and cartoons were published in newspapers that sanctioned brutal repression and violent reprisal.

Ø The British Lion’s Vengeance on the Bengal Tiger”  and Justice punch were the famous images.


Ø The vengeance and retribution were expressed in the brutal way in which the rebels were executed.

Ø They were blown from guns, or hanged from the gallows. Images of these executions were widely circulated through popular journals.

Ø Images of executions of Indian soldiers in Peshawar also showed their bravery.


Ø Many image and cartoons were published in that time who show the leniency towards the rebels. They become the mocked in the British press.

Ø In the image “The clemency of Canning.” Canning was shown as looming father figure, with his protective hand over the head of a sepoy who still holds an unsheathed sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, both dripping with blood. As he declared that a gesture of leniency and a show of mercy would help in winning back the loyalty of the sepoys,


Ø The national movement drew its inspiration from the events of 1857

Ø  It was the first war of Independence in which people of all the sections of society came together to fight the foreign rule.

Ø Leaders of the revolt were presented as heroic figures leading the country into battle of freedom.

Ø The revolt roused the people to come together and fight against the oppressive British rule in India.


Ø The poets and the writers also gave their full support with their narratives and poems.

Ø Many books have been written to highlight the contribution of many patriots like Rani Jhansi,Tantia Tope and many others. Specially Subhadra Kumari Chauhan and her poem : “khoob lari mardani who to Jhansi wali rani thi”.



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