Social Scientist. v 26, no. 296-99 (Jan-April 1998) p. 148.

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Tapti Roy, The Politics of a Popular Uprising —Bundelkhand in 1857 Oxford University Press, 1994, pp.x, 291, Price Rs. 350.

The Revolt of 1857 is an enigmatic theme of Indian history. Ever since it occurred, it has been defined, described, debated and contested along lines of frenzied passion and intense fascination. Bewildered by the event —its deep intensity, impressive unity, perplexing organisation and complex forms of mobilisation — the British statesmen and administrators were the first to write about it. Their reports describe the Revolt in a tone that expresses feelings of amazement and shock, and fear and terror. In an anxiety to situate the Revolt in its causal context, they wrote 'histories' on it, as well. In 1858-59, Charles Bell wrote The History of the Indian Mutiny, in two volumes, and this was followed by other important histories, notably by John Kaye and T. R. Holmes.1 Initially, the British statesmen tried to minimise the significance of this event by describing it as a mere 'sepoy mutiny'.

Gradually, however, they came round to accept the broad-based character of the Revolt, and the impressive participation of the civil population. J. W. Kaye, for example, argued way back in 1867, that the roots of the event lay deep within the depths of the society, the progressive alienation of the aristocracy and the priesthood coupled with the failure to reconcile the peasant proprietary classes were, according to him, chiefly responsible for its occurrence. Even so, the event was depicted in the context of the 'modernising' impact of British colonialism, as a 'native' reaction to the progressive and reformist policies of the British in India.

""Centre for Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

Social Scientist, Vol. 26, Nos. 1-4, Jan. - Apr. 1998

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