The revolt of 1857 marks a turning point in the history of India. It led to far-reaching changes in the system of administration and the policies of the British government.
Even before the Revolt could be suppressed fully, the British Parliament, on August 2, 1858, passed an Act for the Better Government of India. The Act declared Queen Victoria as the sovereign of British India and provided for the appointment of a Secretary of State for India (a member of the British cabinet). The direct responsibility for the administration of the country was assumed by the British Crown and Company rule was abolished.
The assumption of the Government of India by the sovereign of Great Britain was announced by Lord Canning at a durbar at Allahabad in the ‘Queen’s Proclamation’ issued on November 1, 1858. (It was by this proclamation that the governor-general acquired the additional title of ‘Viceroy’.) Many of the promises made in that proclamation appeared to be of a positive nature to the Indians.
The Army, which was at the forefront of the outbreak, was thoroughly reorganised and British military policy came to be dominated by the idea of “division and counterpoise”. The British could no longer depend on Indian loyalty, so the number of Indian soldiers was drastically reduced even as the number of European soldiers was increased. The concept of divide and rule was adopted with separate units being created on the basis of caste/community/region. Recruits were to be drawn from the ‘martial’ races of Punjab, Nepal, and north-western frontier who had proved loyal to the British during the Revolt. Effort was made to keep the army away from civilian population.