The Suppression of the Santal Rebellion in Bengal, 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.
‘A gripping account of an important episode in India’s colonial history seen from a nuanced military-social perspective. The Hul was overshadowed by the events of the great uprising of 1857 but has finally been resurrected by the chronicler that it deserves.’ — Rana Chhina MBE, Editor, United Service Institution of India (USI) Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research
‘That Santals stood to be shot every time their drums beat for a Santal is both poignant and chilling, as is this book—the most comprehensive, riveting retelling of the rebellion—a history that continues to inform and define the Santals.’ — Ruby Hembrom, Founder and Director of adivaani, and author of Disaibon Hul
‘A thorough study of the 1855 Santhal Rebellion which rocked the Bengal Presidency. Stanley portrays the origin, course and consequences of the adivasi insurgency and British counterinsurgency based on the British military records. Incisive and thought-provoking.’ — Kaushik Roy, Guru Nanak Chair Professor, Jadavpur University, and Global Fellow, Peace Research Institute Oslo
‘Lucidly written, imaginatively structured, and richly documented. This fascinating account of the Santal rebellion, which lies at the unusual intersection of adivasi history and military history, is a must-read for scholars of both these fields.’ — Sangeeta Dasgupta, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
‘Anchored in painstaking research undertaken in archives across several continents, Hul! Hul! is a thoughtful, judiciously balanced, and richly textured account of the origins, events, and legacies of one of the largest yet hitherto overlooked uprisings against colonial rule in India. A compelling narrative from which students of military history, Indian history, and imperial history will all stand to profit.’ — Douglas Peers, Professor of History, University of Waterloo
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.