When people rebel - 1857 and after Class 8 History Chapter 5 Explanation

When people rebel – 1857 and after Class 8 History Chapter 5 – Explanation, Question, and Answers

CBSE Class 8 History Lesson When people rebel – 1857 and after – Detailed explanation of the chapter ‘When people rebel – 1857 and after‘ along with question answers. Given here is the complete explanation of the lesson, along with all the exercises, Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson.

Class 8 History – Chapter 5

When People Rebel – 1857 and After

In this chapter, we will study the outrage of the people of India from different backgrounds against Britishers as they were facing suppression and hardships due to the policies made by the Britishers and the changes made by them in their policies thereafter.

When People Rebel – 1857 and After Class 8 Video Explanation

Policies and the People

In our previous chapters, we have studied that the policies made by the Britishers were affecting the lives of the Indian people in many ways. These policies of the East India Company had effect on different people such as Kings, queens, sepoys and peasants. So, they started resisting against the Britishers as these policies were against their rights and sentiments.

policies and the people

Nawabs lose their power

rani lakshmibaiSince the mid-eighteenth century, the kings had seen their power deteriorating. They were losing their authority gradually. Residents were appointed in many states and the kings were not allowed to keep their army. Most of them lost their territories. Many kings and queens tried to negotiate with the company in order to safeguard their interest. For example- Queen Lakshmibai wanted the company to recognize her adopted son as the legal heir after her husband’s death. Nana Sahib the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II pleaded that he should receive his father’s pension as he was his legal heir. But the Britishers never accepted this as they were sure of their power.  

Awadh was the last territory to be annexed in 1801. Britishers imposed a subsidiary alliance there. According to the rule of the Subsidiary Alliance, Indian rulers were not allowed to have their independent armed forces. They had to keep the company’s army and pay their maintenance. In 1856 they took over it on the pretext of the misgovernment of the territory. If they failed to do so, the part of their territory was taken away as a penalty by the Britishers. This was done by Lord Dalhousie. The company even tried to deteriorate the authority of Mughals. They stopped minting coins on the Mughal king’s name. In 1849 Governor-General Dalhousie announced that the successors of Bahadur Shah will not stay in the Red Fort and in 1856, Governor-General Canning declared that the mughal kingdom had come to an end with the death of Bahadur shah and his successors would be known as ‘prince’ and not ‘king’.

The Peasants and sepoys

In the countryside, the peasants and zamindars were burdened with the heavy taxes and rent levied on them. Even the method of collecting rent was very harsh. Many failed to pay their loans to moneylenders and they were forced to give away ownership rights of their lands.

The Indian sepoys were also unhappy about their salary, allowance and conditions of service. Some of the new rules were also against their religious sentiments. For example in those days people feared to cross the sea as they had the myth of losing their religion if they crossed the seas. So, when in 1824 they were asked to cross the sea to go to Burma, they simply rejected it. Though the sepoys were ready to go there by land route. Hence, they were severely punished but as the issue remained unresolved, so in 1856, the company passed a new law that every Indian who wanted to be a part of the army had to agree to serve overseas.

Sepoys were also against the Britishers’ behaviour with the peasants as many of them were from the families of peasants. So, the anger of the peasants quickly spread among the sepoys.

Responses to reforms

The Britishers started changing the society of India. They prohibited sati and encouraged widow remarriage. After 1830 it became easier for Christian missionaries to own land in India. In 1850 a new law was passed that enabled the converts to inherit their ancestral property. Many Indians started believing that Britishers were trying to destroy their religion, culture and custom.

mutinyA mutiny becomes a popular rebellion

A very large number of Indians developed a feeling that they had a common enemy and they should rebel against them. Such a situation was experienced in north India during 1857. The company faced a massive rebellion in May 1857 when sepoys mutinied against the East India Company. It is stated as one of the biggest armed resistance to colonialism in the nineteenth century anywhere in the world.

mangal pandeyFrom Meerut to Delhi

On 29th March 1857, a soldier named Mangal Pandey was hanged to death for attacking his officers in Barrackpore. After some days of this incident, some sepoys at Merrut refused to use the fat greased cartridges. Therefore, 85 sepoys were dismissed from service and on 9 May 1857, they were sentenced to 10 years in jail for disobeying their officers.

On 10th May the soldiers marched to the Merrut jail and released the imprisoned sepoys. They attacked and killed British officers and declared a war against firangis. After this they reach Delhi where they were joined by the regiment of Delhi. They rose in rebellion and killed British officers and also captured the arms. After this they set the building on fire.

The sepoys then gathered at Red Fort and proclaimed Bahadur Shah Zafar as their leader. Initially, the aging emperor was not ready to be part of this rebellion but finally, he accepted this and wrote letters to various kings to organize a confederacy of Indian states to fight the British. As we know that many of the rulers controlled different territories on behalf of the Mughals and were threatened of losing their territories to the Britishers so they joined Bahadur Shah Zafar in this movement.

Britishers had never expected this as they thought that the cartridge issue would die down soon.

bahadur shah zafarThe rebellion spreads

The rebellion in Delhi took almost a week to spread as news over whole of the India. Many regiments mutinied one after another at various places such as Delhi, Kanpur and Lucknow. Along with local leaders and zamindars, many rose up against the Britishers. Nana Saheb, the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao gathered the forces and declared himself as governor under Bahadur Shah Zafar. Birjis Qadr of Lucknow who was son of the deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, was proclaimed the new Nawab. His mother Begum Hazrat Mahal took an active part in organizing the uprising against the British. In Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai joined the rebel sepoys and fought the British along with Tantia Tope, the general of Nana Saheb.

Rani Avantibai Lodhi of Ramgarh raised an army of four thousand against the Britishers who had taken over the administration of her state. The British were greatly affected by these rebels.

Many new leaders came up such as Ahmadullah Shah, a maulavi  from Faizabad raised a huge force of supporters and fought against Britishers in Lucknow. Bakht Khan a soldier of Bareilly and Kunwar Singh of Bihar were some of such fighters who fought against Britishers.

company fights backThe Company fights back

Now the Company wanted to repress the revolt completely. So, it brought reinforcements from England and passed new laws to convict the rebels easily. Delhi was recaptured by the Britishers in September 1857. The last Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah and his wife Begum Zinat Mahal were sent to prison in Rangoon in October 1858 where Bahadur Shah died in November 1862. The British had to fight for two years to completely suppress the massive rebellion.

Lucknow was taken in March 1858 and Rani Lakshmibai was defeated and killed in June 1858. Tantia Tope escaped to jungle and gathered tribal and peasants to fight but later on he was captured, tried and killed in April 1859. Later on, the British were able to gain back control over the lost places and tried to win back loyalty of the people. For this they announced rewards for loyal landholders with the traditional rights over their lands. Those who had rebelled were told that if they submit to British and if they have not killed white people, they would remain safe. But many of them were tried and hanged which included sepoys, rebels, Nawabs and rajas.


The British regained the power once again. But this time they changed some of their policies. Some of them are as follows:

  • The British parliament passed a new act in the year 1858 which transferred the power to the crown from East India Company. A secretary of state of India was appointed for the governance of India. He was given a council to advise him and the Governor-General was now known as Viceroy of India.
  • All the rulers were assured that their territories would not be taken away from them and that they could pass their kingdom to their heirs even the adopted heirs. But with a condition of accepting the supremacy of the British Queen.
  • It was also decided that ratio of Indian soldiers in the British army be reduced and more British soldiers be brought so that there should be no such revolt again. Now the soldiers of Bihar, Awadh, Central India were not recruited, rather Gurkhas, Sikhs and Pathans were considered for this job.
  • The land and property of Muslims were taken away as the Britishers were suspicious of them that they were responsible for the rebellion.
  • The Britishers started respecting the culture and custom of Indians.
  • Policies were made for zamindars and landlords which gave them security over their lands.

Thus, a new phase of history started.

NCERT Book solutions

Q1. What was the demand of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi that was refused by the Britishers?

A. Rani Lakshmibai wanted the company to accept her adopted son as the legal heir of the state of Jhansi but that was refused by the Company because of their policy of Doctrine of Lapse.

Q2. What did the British do to protect the interests of those who converted to Christianity?

A. The converts had the right to inherit their ancestral property even after being the adopted son.

Q3. What objections did the sepoys have to the new cartridges that they were asked to use?

A. The new cartridges introduced in the army were greased with animal fat of cow and pig which had to be chewed off before using. This was against the religious sentiments of the Indian sepoys so they refused to use it.

Q4. How did the last Mughal emperor live the last years of his life?

A. The last years of the Mughal emperor were very miserable. He was tried and imprisoned for his role in 1857 revolt. He died in Rangoon jail.

Q5. What could be the reasons for the confidence of the British rulers about their position in India before May 1857?

A. Following are the reasons for the confidence of the British rulers:

  1. Most of the Kings had lost their authority and power. Residents were appointed in their courts. So, nobody could plot against them.
  2. Due to the policy of subsidiary alliance, Indian kings were not allowed to keep their own army.
  3. The decline of the Mughal Empire.

Q6. What impact did Bahadur Shah Zafar’s support to the rebellion have on the people and the ruling families?

A. Bahadur Shah Zafar’s support to the rebellion provided a big support to the commoners and the rulers. Peasants and zamindars of villages rose up against the Britishers as they were deprived of their rights over their lands and on the other hand, the local rulers wanted to safeguard their territories and wanted to rule under Mughals. Similarly those rulers who due to doctrine of Lapse were not given the right over their territory saw this as an opportunity to regain their power over their territory.

Q7. How did the British succeed in securing the submission of the rebel landowners of Awadh?

A. The Britishers changed some of their policies and allowed the landowners to the traditional rights over their land and also stopped collecting taxes from them.

Q8. In what ways did the British change their policies as a result of the rebellion of 1857?

A. Following were the changes made in the policies by the Britishers after the 1857 revolt:

  • The power was passed on to the crown from the East India Company.
  • The Governor-General was now known as the Viceroy of India which means he was now the representative of the crown in India.
  • All the rulers were assured that their territories would never be annexed and they could pass the ownership to their adopted heirs also. But they had to acknowledge the supremacy of the Queen.
  • The British started giving importance to the culture and customs of the Indians.
  • The ratio of Indian soldiers decreased and British soldiers in the British army increased. The recruitment from Bihar, Awadh, Central and South India was stopped. Rather, Gorkhas, Sikhs, and Pathans were recruited.