Government of Rebels: the Indian Uprising of 1857

(class leader: Dr Faisal Devji)


This paper takes the Indian Uprising of 1857 as a point of entry into some of the most important long-termforces shaping the development of India's colonial state and society. In addition to core questions of agrarian and military history, students will explore the ideas about moral order and good government that were implicit in many of the actions of the peasant and sepoy rebels, particularly during the briefperiod of 'Mughal government' restored in Delhi, even as the city lay under siege by British troops. The paper will also look at the significance of the Uprising in the Indian nationalist imagination, and in its memorialisation in the independent Indian state. Students will make use of a range of colonial records and Indian nationalist histories, and will be able to draw on the rich corpus of recently translated eyewitness accounts of daily life in Delhi in 1857.

8 weekly tutorials or classes of 90 minutes will be offered, during the Hilary Term. In addition, each student will be required to write two tutorials essays during the term, and will receive individual feedback on their work.

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