Discuss the Economic Causes of the First War of Independence of 1857

QUESTION: The First War of Independence of 1857 was the culmination of people’s dissatisfaction with British rule. In this context, discuss the economic causes of the First War of Independence of 1857.

ANSWER: The Economic causes of the First War of Independence of 1857

Economic causes of the First War of Independence of 1857

  • Exploitation of Economic Resources: The British overexploited the resources of the country. India was forced to export raw materials to Britain at exorbitantly low rates. Plantation products and food grains were exported to Britain. While no import duties were imposed on ready-made British goods, high import duties were levied on the Indian goods exported to Britain. This resulted in the decline in handicraft and many subsidiary industries in India.
  • Drain of Wealth: The British, after establishing their rule in Bengal, began to purchase raw materials from India meant to be exported to England out of Indian revenues. The salaries and pension of British officers were also paid from Indian revenues. This marked the beginning of the drain of Indian wealth to Britain.
  • Decay of Cottage and Handicraft Industries: The Indian handicraft industry began to decline because of the free trade policy of the English. The Indian goods were not able to compete with the cheap English machine-made goods. Further, high trade duties were imported on the Indian goods entering Britain. This resulted in the loss of livelihood of millions of artisans and weavers.
  • Exploitation of the Indian Peasantry: The British levied high taxes on the Indian peasantry. For example, the land revenues in Bengal were raised considerably by the British. Many peasants had to sell their lands as they were not able to pay the increased land revenues. The traders and moneylenders who became the owners of the land did nothing to improve to quality of the land as they were only concerned with the collection of land revenues. As a result, the condition of the Indian peasantry deteriorated.
  • Poverty and Famine: The economic policies of the British impoverished the general Indian people. Famines became recurrent in India, and nothing was done by the British to minimize the impact of famines.
  • Decline of Landed Aristocracy: The landed aristocracy such as the taluqdars and hereditary landlords were deprived of their estates. According to the provisions of the Inam Commission passed in 1852, about 20,000 estates were confiscated and were given to the highest bidder. In Awadh, landed aristocracy was deprived of its rights over land.


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