The Suppression of the Santal Rebellion in British India, 1855
A groundbreaking military history of one of the largest rebellions against the British in the East India Company era.
If not for the famous Indian mutiny-rebellion of 1857, the Santal ‘Hul’ (rebellion) of 1855 would today be remembered as the most serious uprising that the East India Company ever faced. Instead, this rebellion–to which 10 per cent of the Bengal Army’s infantry was committed and in which at least 10,000 Santals died–has been forgotten. While its memory lived among Santals, British officers published little about it, and most of the sepoys involved died in 1857. In the words of one British officer, the Hul was ‘not war … but execution’, and perhaps thus was dismissed as unworthy of attention by military historians.
Drawing for the first time on the Bengal officers’ voluminous reports on its suppression, Peter Stanley has produced the first comprehensive interpretation of the Hul, investigating why it occurred, how it was fought and why it ended as it did. Despite the Bengal Army virtually inventing counterinsurgency operations in the field (and the Santals improvising their first war), the Hul came to an end amid starvation and disease. But between its bloody outbreak, its protracted suppression and its far-reaching effects, Stanley demonstrates that the Hul was more than just ‘execution’–it was indeed a war.
Peter Stanley is Professor of History at UNSW Canberra and has been a winner of the Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History. He has published over thirty-five books on Australian military-social history and on British India, including White Mutiny: British Military Culture in India, 1825-75, also published by Hurst.