Document A: Gardiner’s English History
Samuel Rawson Gardiner (1829-1902) was an English historian and a
professor of history at King’s College in London. He wrote several books on
English history. The excerpt below comes from a book he wrote for young
The Indian Mutiny of 1857
The religion of the Hindus, who form a great part of the natives in India,
teaches many things which seem very strange to Englishmen. Among other
things they are taught that they will be defiled if they eat any part of a cow.
By this defilement they will meet with much contempt from their fellows,
and will suffer much after death in another world. The bulk of the army in
India was composed of Hindus.
It happened that an improved rifle had lately been invented for the use of
the soldiers, and that the cartridges used in this rifle needed to be greased
so they could be rammed down easily into the barrel. The men believed
that the grease was made of the fat of cows, though this was not really the
case. There was, therefore, much suspicion and angry feeling among the
native soldiers, and when ignorant men are suspicious and angry they are
likely to break out into deeds of unreasoning fury.
Source: Gardiner’s English History for Schools, an English textbook edited
for American students, 1881.
defiled: made dirty, spoiled, ruined
contempt: disrespect
cartridge: ammunition for a gun or rifle
fury: extreme anger
Document B: Sir Colin Campbell (Modified)
Sir Colin Campbell took charge of British forces during the uprising. In this
passage from his book on the uprising, he first discusses the Hindu sepoys.
These soldiers included members of various castes, and a sizable number of
them were Brahmins, the highest caste.
Any considerable offence offered to [the Brahmins] . . . might seriously
endanger the fidelity of the native troops; and there seems to be little
doubt that offence has been given. Injudicious attempts to convert sepoys
to Christianity have been made, and [the sepoys believed] that they were to
be converted by compulsion. . . .
At the same time it is impossible to dissociate the revolt and the [removal]
of the Muslim king of Oudh.
The province of Oudh had always maintained its independence. . . . But at
length the system of government became too bad to be tolerated; the court
was a mere hot bed of oppression, intrigue, and sensuality; and the British
took control of Oudh.
It has never been disputed that this was a merciful change for the people of
Oudh; but the people are not always governed by reason. Prejudices
religious, national and social have paramount influence even in a civilized
country; this is even more true in a region sunk into barbarism.
Source: Sir Colin Campbell, Narrative of the Indian Revolt from Its Outbreak to
the Capture of Lucknow,1858.
fidelity: loyalty, faithfulness
injudicious: unwise, lacking in judgment
compulsion: act of compelling or forcing
Oudh: Region in northern India
fanaticism: wild or extreme devotion or
enthusiasm, as with regard to religion or
Document C: Sita Ram
Sita Ram was a sepoy who remained loyal to the British. Yet even he had his
"doubts" about them. The following is an excerpt from memoirs he wrote
sometime in the 1860s about the rebellion.
It chanced that about this time the English Government sent parties of men
from each regiment to different garrisons for instruction in the use of the
new rifle. These men performed the new drill for some time until a report
got about, by some means or other, that the cartridges used for these new
rifles were greased with the fat of cows and pigs. The men from our
regiment wrote to others in the regiment telling them of this, and there was
soon excitement in every regiment.
Some men pointed out that in forty years of service nothing had ever been
done by the English Government to insult their religion, but as I have
already mentioned the sepoys' minds had been inflamed by the seizure of
Oudh. Interested parties were quick to point out that the great aim of the
English was to turn us all into Christians and they had therefore introduced
the cartridge in order to bring this about, since both Muslims and Hindus
would be defiled by using it. . . .
[The Proclamation of the King of Delhi] stated that the English Government
intended to make all Brahmins into Christians, which had in fact been
proved correct, and in proof of it one hundred ministers were about to be
stationed in Oudh. Caste was going to be broken by forcing everyone to eat
beef or pork. . . .
I had never known the English to interfere with our religion or our caste in
all the years since I had been a soldier, but I was nevertheless filled with
doubt. . . . I had also remarked the increase in Missionaries during recent
years, who stood up in the streets of our cities and told the people that their
cherished religion was all false, and who exhorted them to become
Source: Sita Ram, From Sepoy to Subedar: Being the Life Adventures of
Subedar Sita Ram, A Native Officer in the Bengal Army, Written and
Related by Himself.
Document D: Sayyid Ahmed Khan
Sayyid Ahmed Khan was a Muslim noble and scholar who worked as a
jurist for the British East India Company. At the time of the uprising, he was
loyal to the British. Later, he came to blame several British policies and
mistakes for the uprising. He thought that the British decision not to include
Indians in the Legislative Council, a British government organization in
charge of India, was particularly harmful. He explained his views in a book
he first published in 1858 in Urdu. The book was translated into English in
an edition published in 1873. This passage is from the English translation.
The evils which resulted to India from the non-admission of natives into the
Legislative Council of India were various. . . . The people had no means of
protesting against what they might feel to be a foolish measure. . . .
Whatever law was passed was misconstrued by men who had no share in
the framing of it. At length the Hindustanis fell into the habit of thinking that
all the laws were passed with a view to degrade and ruin them. . . .
Although the intentions of Government were excellent, there was no man
who could convince the people of it; no one was at hand to correct the
errors which [the government] had adopted. And why? Because there was
not one of their own number among the members of the Legislative
Council. Had there been, these evils that had happened to us, would have
been averted.
There is not the smallest doubt that all men whether ignorant or well-
informed, whether high or low, felt a firm conviction that the English
Government was bent on interfering with their religion and with their old
established customs. They believed that Government intended to force the
Christian Religion and foreign customs upon Hindu and Muslim alike.
Source: Sayyid Ahmed Khan, The Causes of the Indian Revolt. Medical
Hall Press, 1873.
misconstrued: misunderstood.
Hindustanis: people of Hind area of Northern India, along the plain of the
Ganges River.
Document E: Joseph Coohill
Joseph Coohill is a historian and university professor at Duquesne
University. The passage below is from an article he wrote in 2007 for the
magazine History Today.
Sepoys in the East India Company army had seen their pay (and therefore
their status) decline in recent years, and many felt that the new officers
serving in the Company army . . . did not have the same respect and
sympathy for sepoys as the previous generation of Company officers. Lord
Dalhousie, Governor General of India, introduced the so-called Doctrine of
Lapse, a policy which allowed the East India Company to extend its control
into Indian territory when a native ruler died. . . . The Company applied the
Doctrine to take over the town of Oudh. Indians considered this to be a final
outrage of British conquest. Oudh was such a rich and historic part of India
that this seizure was seen as a cultural insult. The outbreak of hostilities in
the army would not have spread so quickly or gained much-needed local
support if the sepoys' grievances had not been echoed by discontent in
many parts of India, both rural and urban.
Source: Joseph Coohill, Indian Voices from the 1857 Rebellion,History
Today, 2007.
grievances: complaints
discontent: unhappiness
Sepoy Rebellion Guiding Questions
Document A: Gardiner’s History
1) What kind of document is this? When was it written?
2) Who was the intended audience of this document?
3) What are the author’s main claims about what caused the Sepoy Rebellion?
4) Do you think this is a trustworthy document? Why or why not?
Document B: Colin Campbell
1) Who is Campbell? When was the document written?
2) What are Campbell’s two main claims about what caused the Sepoy Rebellion?
3) According to Campbell, why did the British take control of Oudh?
4) How does Campbell describe the residents of Oudh?
5) Do you think this is a trustworthy document? Why or why not?
Document C: Sita Ram
1) Who is Sita Ram? When was the document written?
2) What are Sita Ram’s main claims about what caused the Sepoy Rebellion?
3) Do you think this is a trustworthy document? Why or why not?
4) How do Sita Ram’s arguments compare to those in Document A and Document B?
Document D: Sayyid Ahmed Khan
1) Who is Khan? When was the document written?
2) What are Kahn’s main claims about what caused the Sepoy Rebellion?
3) Do you think this is a trustworthy document? Why or why not?
Document E: Coohill’s History
1) Who is Coohill? When was the document written?
2) Coohill wrote, “Indians considered this to be a final outrage of British conquest.” What
do you think he meant?
3) What additional information about the causes of the Sepoy Rebellion does this
document provide?
4) Do you think this is a trustworthy document? Why or why not?
Sepoy Rebellion Final Claim
Using arguments and evidence from Documents A-E, make a final claim to answer
the question: What caused the Sepoy Rebellion?