Social Scientist. v 25, no. 292-293 (Sep-Oct 1997) p. 28.

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From Revolt to Agitation: Beginning of The National Movement

The Revolt of 1857 was both a culmination and a beginning. No armed struggle of that magnitude against the colonial rule took place thereafter. It was, however, preceded by a series of revolts by displaced aristocracy and civil population in different parts of the country. Motivated by different reasons and shaped by local circumstances, but invariably linked to the hardships generated by colonial subjection, they embodied the early resistance against the alien rule. The peasants, tribals, zamindars and former rulers were all part of these unsuccessful efforts to prevent the consolidation of the British rule. Alive to the alien but not to the colonial character of the British rule they all remained isolated incidents and hence were easily suppressed. The Revolt of 1857, despite some coordination and communication among the leaders, was essentially a large scale enactment of earlier efforts. Its failure was a landmark in the political consciousness of the nation, as it heralded a new phase in the struggle against colonialism.


The character of the new phase was reflected in the attitude of the intelligentsia towards the colonial rule. The emergence of a modern intelligentsia in India was integral to the social and economic policies pursued by the British rule. Products of Macaulayian ambition to create English minds in Indian bodies, the members of the middle class imbibed, through Western education, a political perspective rooted in liberalism. To them Britain represented the best of liberal tradition. More importantly, they viewed British rule as the instrument, ordained by God, for the dissemination of liberal enlightenment in countries like

^Professor of History at the Centre of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Social Scientist, Vol.25, Nos. 9-10, Sept.-Oct. 1997

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