Delhi and the Indian Mutiny, May to September 1857: The campaign of the Delhi Field Force and its operations to recover Delhi

Mackinnon, Donald J (2003) Delhi and the Indian Mutiny, May to September 1857: The campaign of the Delhi Field Force and its operations to recover Delhi. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

For centuries men have fought over the rich and populous sub continent of India. In the last seven hundred years it has suffered from the attentions of Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, European invaders, and from a host of internal power struggles and wars. Although Britain's influence and subsequent control of India played a pivotal part in the history of both countries, it nevertheless only encompasses a period of some three hundred or so years. From its earliest trade links with Britain at the start of the seventeenth century to its independence in the mid twentieth is only one chapter in India's long and turbulent history. During this period India changed from useful trading partner to Crown colony and eventually the most glittering jewel in the Imperial Crown. Britain invested hugely in India, sent some of its best soldiers and statesmen to secure it, fought wars to defend it, and risked all to control it. From the granting of a Royal Charter by Elizabeth I in 1600 the gateway to India was opened and the East India Company was born. The Company eventually rose to unprecedented heights of power and authority and its fate was linked with that of India for two hundred and fifty years. But in 1857 the Indian Mutiny rocked the British Empire to its very foundations. It has been seen by some as India's first war of independence. In reality it was a mutiny of military forces, albeit on an unprecedented scale. It is not the intention here to revisit the vast literature on the mutiny, nor to provide an overview of its whole course. Instead the focus will be on one specific part of the conflict, the loss and subsequent recapture of the city of Delhi. In the early stages of the mutiny Delhi was the only place where the mutineers appeared to be on the defensive against a British force which attempted to maintain the initiative. Despite being hugely outnumbered the Delhi Field Force, as it came to be known, contained the mutineers for three months before eventually storming and retaking the city. It is through these actions that some of the strongest arguments for the mutiny being something greater than a military insurrection are generated and given the greatest credibility. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the mutiny may have been only a part of a planned general rising, even though no such insurrection took place. The siege of Delhi figured heavily in the early stages of the mutiny, as it became a focal point and rallying place for the mutineers. The campaign to retake the city and the mutineers' defence of it give many valuable clues to the subsequent course of the mutiny and the reasons for its eventual failure. Delhi's pivotal role in the Mutiny forms the basis for this thesis, and for the argument that the capture of Delhi was not the unique and unlikely victory that history generally suggests.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Military history, South Asian studies
Date of Award: 2003
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2003-71385
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 10:49
Last Modified: 10 May 2019 10:49
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71385

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