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The Indian Mutiny: 1857 [Paperback]

Saul David
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Sep 2003

In The Indian Mutiny: 1857 Saul David explores one of Britain's most harrowing colonial battles.

In 1857 the native troops of the Bengal army rose against their colonial masters. The ensuing insurrection was to become the bloodiest in the history of the British Empire.Combining formidable storytelling with ground-breaking research, Saul David narrates a tale at once heart-rendingly tragic and extraordinarily compelling. David provides new and convincing evidence that the true causes of the mutiny were much more complex, and disturbing, than previously assumed.

'A fine achievement by a huge new talent' William Dalrymple, Sunday Times

Saul David is Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham and the author of several critically acclaimed history books, including The Indian Mutiny: 1857 (shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature), Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879 (a Waterstone's Military History Book of the Year) and, most recently, Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (4 Sep 2003)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0141005548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141005546
  • Product Dimensions: 3.7 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Saul David is Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham and the author of several critically-acclaimed history books, including The Indian Mutiny: 1857 (shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature), Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879 (a Waterstone's Military History Book of the Year) and, most recently, Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire.

Saul David also writes acclaimed historical fiction. Zulu Hart, the first in the George Hart series, was a bestseller in 2009, and the sequel, Hart of Empire, will be published in August 2010.

An experienced broadcaster, Saul David has presented and appeared in history programmes for all the major TV channels and is a regular contributor to Radio 4.

Visit Saul's website at

Product Description


The most compelling and comprehensive history of the Indian Mutiny ever written. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Saul David was born near Monmouth in 1966 and educated at Ampleforth and Edinburgh University. His previous books, include Mutiny at Salerno: An Injustice Exposed (made into a BBC Timewatch documentary), The Homicidal Earl: The Life of Lord Cardigan, and Prince of Pleasure: The Prince of Wales and the making of the Regency. He lives in Somerset with his wife and two children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Of Castes And Cartridges 9 Dec 2002
This is a good, solid effort by Mr. David. He has 2 major points that he wants to prove. The first is that the mutiny was not a spontaneous uprising with one simple cause (the beef/pork tallow cartridge issue). The second is that the outcome (a British victory) was anything but a foregone conclusion. He succeeds in proving both of his points. He shows that the uprising had several causes: poor pay, frustration over the lack of opportunities for promotion, the insensitivity of the British concerning the caste system, and a lack of communication between the British and the Indian troops, caused by arrogance and racism on the part of the British. Mr. David shows that the cartridge issue (which was really a non-issue, since the problem had already been corrected before any of the odious cartridges would have had to have been used) was only a pretext- something that the leaders of the mutiny, mostly high-caste Brahman officers, knew they could use to agitate the "rank-and-file" sepoys. Mr. David also shows that the uprising was anything but spontaneous. There were many indications that something was "in the works". Some of the more astute British officers and East India Company representatives knew what was in the wind...but their warnings were either ignored or, if actions had been initiated to correct grievances, it was a case of "too little, too late". Also, in addition to the above factors, there was much resentment caused by the British annexation of various "fiefdoms"- areas where a local ruler had died and left no natural heir. Longstanding tradition, even under the British, had been that the ruler could pass the property on to an adopted child. The British got greedy and decided they could use the lack of a natural heir as an excuse to grab up these juicy, revenue producing areas for themselves. Read more ›
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Near disaster for the British Raj 10 Oct 2002
Saul David's retelling of the bloody events of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 gain enormously from the numerous anectodes of those men and women caught up in the conflict. Inevitably these were written primarily by the British rather than mutinous Indian sepoys leading perhaps to a one sided viewpoint. Even so they have an exciting immediacy that shows terror, heroism and courage. The sieges of Delhi, Lucknow and Cawnpore are covered in detail but read like a thrilling historical novel that I was loathe to put down.The author shows that the causes of these turbulent events were as much due to poor pay and conditions as fear that greased cartridges were to be introduced offending both Hindu and Moslem sensitivities. Indeed the latter was used as an excuse to persuade wavering sepoys to rebel. Colourful figures abound. My favourite is the Rani of Jhansi. A useful glossary is included to explain the many unfamiliar terms such as baba-logs, jemander and havildar and the maps are more than adequate. These were all referred to frequently.More detailed descriptions of the Cawnpore massacre can be found in Andrew Ward's excellent'Our Bones are Scattered' but for an overall description of these events Saul David's book is difficult to beat.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peerless narrative history 15 Jan 2004
Narrative history has been championed successfully of recent by the likes of Anthony Beevor and Simon Schama, both regularly riding high in the best-seller lists. Every bit their equal is Saul David who in this book describes the dramatic events of 1857 and 1858 when the complacent British rule of India came near to being swept away. However, David’s book is not merely a colourful account. It also has an analytical edge, seeking to answer the standard but often disputed question of why the mutiny occurred. His compelling answer is that the causes were neither political, religious, nor even due to the harsh conditions imposed upon the Indian sepoys. Instead the mutiny was more professional in character, resulting from Indian soldiers’ wish for better pay and promotional opportunities. If anything discipline was too lax and Indian regiments generally poorly led by their white officers.
The Indian mutiny is a subject which has often been taken up whether by other historians, such as Christopher Hibbert (who compared to this wrote a rather turgid account), or even in fiction. J. G. Farrell received the Booker prize in 1973 for his novel The Siege of Krishnapur, and Zadie Smith wove Mangal Pandy into White Teeeth. Such popularity is easy to understand for the mutiny was more dramatic than any fiction. This drama is finely reproduced by David.
In 1857 British India under Company rule had reached its greatest extent. A disastrous defeat in Afghanistan in 1840 had been more than compensated for by annexations of the Punjab and Burma, whilst minor princely states continued to be snapped up by the Company when there was no apparent heir. But then in March 1857 an intoxicated sepoy, Mangal Pandy, became the first of tens of thousands of Bengal soldiers to mutiny.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for Indian history 17 Oct 2007
Saul David does a sterling job of providing an entertaining and gripping account of the Indian mutiny which all but sealed the fate of the East India Company which was subsequently dissolved in 1858.

Once the narrative gets going it becomes very hard to put down this book and very little foreknowledge of the subject matter is demanded. There are sections when the some of the seiges and battles can get a bit repetitive but luckily those sections are few and far between.

I would recommend this as a starting point for anyone who wants to find out more about this pivotal event in both Indian and British history. The mutiny inspired the first serious attempts at independance from British rule but it also strengthened the British Empire when they were victorious.

The book focuses on the title so if you are looking for more background on the events leading upto the mutiny, British India or the East India Company this would not be the book for you. However, if you wanted to know about how the mutiny started, the misrepresentations in the British press and a very well put together account of the mutiny and subsequent rebellion attempts then jump straight in, you won't regret it.

However, it only gets 4 stars as I would've liked a little bit more from the Indian viewpoint.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Indian Mutiny
This is a well written and researched book. However, it does not give the standard reason as I was taught in school for the Mutiny. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Elgifu
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent service and condition. I would recomend this book to anyone interested in the mutiny. It gives a new slant to a well known subject.
Published 15 months ago by Cookie
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great
Saul David does a good job explaining matters both big and small - everything from the complicated causes of the uprising to what exactly was "grape-shot". Read more
Published on 10 Feb 2012 by Simon Bendle
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This is the third book I have read of Saul David and in my opinion his best book to date.
Having some scant knowledge of the Indian Mutiny this book has more than educated me... Read more
Published on 23 Dec 2010 by Stuart Devers
4.0 out of 5 stars mt
an excellent read. this sheds light on the real reasons for the uprising which modern indians refer to as the ist indian war of independence not a mutiny as the british refer. Read more
Published on 24 Oct 2010 by Mark Tomlinson
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for the general reader
Having read several other books on the Mutiny and having a lively non-specialist interest in this period, I was attracted by the promise of a 'readable' account. Read more
Published on 14 Sep 2010 by Tom Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars indian mutiny
This 500 page tome must surely be the definative account of the Indian Mutiny (1857-9).
In a well written and interesting account the author covers the causes,development and... Read more
Published on 24 Dec 2009 by G. I. Forbes
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant surprise
Having expected a 'revisionist' view of the Mutiny, I got one. However, instead of having to endure the cheap revisionism of an author just contradicting everyone else, I was... Read more
Published on 28 Oct 2008 by Enquirer
3.0 out of 5 stars All too conventional an account of the subject
This book is a useful; start to studying the events of 1857, when the people of India fought for their national sovereignty and for independence from the British Empire. Read more
Published on 2 April 2007 by William Podmore
3.0 out of 5 stars An average account
Whilst I love reading about all periods and aspects of history, it is true to say that military history can be particularly boring. Read more
Published on 21 July 2004 by Ian Thumwood
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