top of page

Sepoy Uprising (1857)

This was a major uprising in India in 1857–58 against the rule of the British East India Company.  Its name is contested, and it is variously described as the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, and the First War of Independence. The Indian rebellion was fed by resentments born of invasive British-style social reforms and harsh land taxes.  Violence was inflicted on both sides.

The rebellion saw the end of the East India Company's rule in India.  The Government of India Act 1858, formally dissolved the Company and its ruling powers over India were transferred to the British Crown. A new British government department, the India Office, was created to handle the governance of India, and its head, the Secretary of State for India, was entrusted with formulating Indian policy. The Governor-General of India gained a new title, Viceroy of India. Queen Victoria decided to take the title, Empress of India. Essentially the old East India Company bureaucracy remained.

Plague (1896-c1902)

In September 1896 the first case of bubonic plague was detected in Bombay (now called Mumbai.) It spread rapidly to other parts of the city, and the death toll was estimated at 1,900 people per week through the rest of that year. The plague was fearsome because it was so contagious. it was not contained to Bombay, though. It spread throughout the region.


Famine (1896-1897)

The famine spread to many parts of the country. All in all, during its two years, the famine affected an area of 307,000 square miles (800,000 km2) and a population of 69.5 million. The mortality, both from starvation and accompanying epidemics, was very high. Approximately one million people are thought to have died. It was one of many famines that struck the country in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Partitioning of Bengal (1905)

The first Partition of Bengal was a territorial reorganization of the Bengal Presidency implemented by the authorities of the British Raj in 1905. The partition separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas on 16 October 1905 after being announced on 19 July 1905 by Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India. The British admitted it was a 'divide and rule policy'. Protests were held all over Bengal and spread to the rest of the country. Bengal was reunited by Lord Hardinge in 1911.


Rowlatt Act (1919)

The Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919, popularly known as the Rowlatt Act, was passed by the Imperial Legislative Council in Delhi on 18 March 1919, indefinitely extending the emergency measures of preventive indefinite detention, and incarceration without trial. 


Massacre at Amritsar (1919)

On 13 April 1919, family groups of Indians gathered together for picnics in Jallianwala Bagh gardens in Amritsar to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi. The event was also a peaceful protest against the Rowlatt Act.  Acting Brigadier General Reginald Dyer ordered troops of the British Indian Army to fire their rifles into the crowd killing at least 379 people and injuring over 1,200 others. 

The ineffective inquiry, together with the initial accolades for Dyer, fuelled great widespread anger against the British among the Indian populace, leading to the Non-cooperation Movement of 1920–22. Some historians consider the episode a decisive step towards the end of British rule in India.

Britain has never formally apologised for the massacre. PM Theresa May expressed ‘regret’ in 2019 on its 100th anniversary.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, visited the site in September 2019 and apologised for the ‘atrocity’. After returning from the visit the Archbishop took to social media to 'apologise on behalf of the UK'. In a Facebook post he said: 'I feel a deep sense of grief having visited the site of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh Massacre today in Amritsar, where a great number of Sikhs, as well as Hindus, Muslims and Christians, were shot dead by British troops in 1919.'


Earthquake at Quetta (1935)

The Quetta earthquake in 1935 killed around 71,000 people. The descriptions of the aftermath were taken from a report by the charity Shelter, published in 2018/9. It makes fascinating reading. I used it to ensure accuracy in the post-earthquake scenes.


Indian independence (1947)

The movement for independence had been going on for many years, pre-dating the Sepoy Uprising. Peaceful protests, horrific violence and diplomatic meetings were all a part of the campaign which went on for 100 years or so.

There have been many books written about independence and the key characters, all of whom have a role in the book. The books take a variety of perspectives. So it is worth reading a number of them before drawing your own conclusion.

My mother and her family were very anti-independence for reasons outlined in the book. As for me, I have instinctively felt, all my life, that independence was a good thing.

bottom of page