London : A new book by a British academic offering a fresh alternative to popular accounts of the 1857 war of independence is just out.
In "The Indian Uprising of 1857-8: Prisons, Prisoners and Rebellion", University of Leicester historian Clare Anderson brings to life the impact of the revolt on marginalized Indian communities across North India.
Recent debates commemorating the abolition of the slave trade have only scratched the surface of raising public awareness and understanding of Britain's history as an imperial power.
The history of the empire at a popular level is still mainly told through the experiences of British officials and settlers rather than those of the marginalized or colonised peoples.
This May marks the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of widespread military mutiny and civil rebellion against British colonial rule across northern India.
Taking a new perspective on the events of 1857, sometimes called the 'mutiny' or 'rebellion' and acknowledged as the biggest challenge the British Empire faced in the mid-19th century, Anderson examines one of its most interesting features – the mass jail-breaks that accompanied and fuelled rebellion.
In what was probably the biggest mass jailbreak in history, rebels badly damaged over 40 prisons and set free over 20,000 prisoners. Anderson examines why prisons became a target for attacks, the penal crisis that ensued, and the resulting permanent colonisation of the Andaman Islands.
Drawing on contemporary British correspondence and descriptions as well as on Indian accounts, the focus is firmly on the lived experience of Indian communities and on histories of colonial repression and resistance.