The Vellore mutiny of July 1806 occupies a rather enigmatic
position in the history of British rule in India. It was a brief
but extremely bloody episode. For a short time it appeared to
threaten the military predominance of the East India Company in
Bouth India, yet the threat died away quickly. This thesis
attempts to resolve some of the mysteries which have subsequently
surrounded the mutiny.
Chapter I deals with the event itself. A detailed description
is given of the events of 10 July 1806, drawing on first-hand
accounts from a wide range of sources. The recapture of the fort
by the British dragoons and the bloodshed which ensued is also
Chapter 2 deals with the military background to the mutiny,
citing previous examples of breaches of allegiance to the Company
army by its sepoys and dealing in detail with the rejection by thf'
sepoys at Vellore of a new pattern of turban in May 1806, three
months prior to the mutiny itself.
Chapter 3 examines the proceedings and findings of the three
enquiries into the mutiny which were held by the authorities in
Ivladras. Possible explanations for the different conclusions
reached by these enquiries are discussed.
Chapter 4 analyses the strength of the arguments which sought
to place the blame for the mutiny either on the sons of Tipu
Sultan, imprisoned at Vellore, or on the introduction of new dress
regulations into the army. Evidence is adduced to argue that the
underlying cause of the mutiny lay in the overall conditions of
service of the Indian troops.
Chapters 5 and 6 study the effects of the Vellore mutiny on
the hadras government. The bitter division between the civil and
military authorities over the causes of the mutiny is examined, as
is the personal confrontation between the Governor, Lord William
Bentinck, and the Commander-in-Chief, Sir John Cradock.
In Chapter 7 the wide ranging effects and consequences of the
mutiny are highlighted. Not only did the mutiny cause tremendous
friction within the Madras government, it also deeply divided the
Court of Directors in London and brought the debate on the ethics
of missionary activity in India to the forefront of public attention o
Chapter 8 looks at the way in which the Vellore mutiny was
interpreted by some of its contemporaries both in India and in
Britain and traces the way in which much of the public conception
of the mutiny came to be based on gossip and rumour rather than on
In Chapter 9, attention is given to the historiography of the
mutiny and it is argued that gossip and rumour also became built in
to historical accounts of the mutiny. The effect of the Indian
Mutiny of 1857 on interpretation of the Vellore mutiny is examined,
along with the most recent contributions to its historiography.