The Mutiny at the Margins series takes a fresh look at the revolt of 1857 from original and unusual perspectives, focusing in particular on neglected socially marginal groups and geographic areas which have hitherto tended to be unrepresented in studies of this cataclysmic event in British imperial and Indian historiography.
Chapter 5: The Trial of Bahadur Shah
The Trial of Bahadur Shah
THE trial of Bahadur Shah Zafar was commenced on 28 January and ended on 9 March 1858. It concluded with a finding of guilty and a sentence of transportation for life for the ex-Emperor, who lived out his remaining days imprisoned in Rangoon. The trial was an act of pure theatre, designed to underline the reestablishment of British authority and control. The Emperor was tried before a military commission that endeavoured to locate Zafar as the mastermind behind a ‘Mahommedan conspiracy’ responsible for the 1857 rebellion. The trial was curious for the fact that the Emperor was charged with treasonous acts within a territory over which his sovereignty was still recognised by the East India ...