part of its resources was spent on its armed forces, not on schemes for
improvement. An insecure government moved cautiously, in spite of its
rhetoric, and at the time, the Indian economy was generally stagnant.
European influences were strongest in the towns of India. This was especially
true in the old bases of British trade, such as Calcutta, Madras or Bombay,
where a new Indian intelligentsia had begun to take root. Whatever the
British may have intended, their early rule seems generally to have
consolidated the hold of what they regarded as ‘traditional’ intellectuals,
rather than displacing them by new ones; and the authority of Brahmins and
of doctrines of caste separation grew stronger, not weaker.
In the countryside, the vital issues were the control of the land, the amount of
tax the peasants had to pay, and the outlets they had to find for their surplus
crops. Early British occupation was disruptive: aristocracies lost power and
influence to the new rulers, the conditions under which land was held could
be changed, and taxation was more rigorously enforced.
Growth of Disaffection Any attempt to explain the revolt of 1857 as
traditional India’s rejection of modern reform is far too crude. Impulses
towards change before then had been weak and uneven. In Bengal and in the
south, which had long been under British rule, there were no revolts. In the
areas that did rebel in 1857, the British succeeded in creating disaffection,
and deposed Indian rulers from their thrones. In the most recent British
acquisition of all, the kingdom of Awadh (Oudh), annexed in 1856, not only
had the ruler been deposed, but many landowners (talukdars) had lost control
over their estates.
Western influences were limited in the towns, but the first Christian missions
had appeared there, and new colleges had opened, which seemed to be an
unwelcome intrusion to many devout Hindus and Muslims. They also fed
fears of a Christian offensive and of forced conversions.
Northern India had a long tradition of spasmodic disorder and resistance to
government. These upheavals would probably have become more intense in
the mid-19th century, but could have been contained if the British had not
alienated a group of people on whom their security depended.
These people were the soldiers, or sepoys of the Bengal army, whose mutiny
eventually set off the 1857 rebellion. The Bengal army was recruited not
from Bengal itself, but from northern      India, especially from Awadh. To be a