Historians are of different opinions regarding the nature of the Revolt of 1857. British historians interpreted the revolt as a mutiny of the sepoys. Ignoring the grievances of the local people and their participation in the movement, the British historians felt that the rebellion was engineered by the sepoys, and some landholders and princes having vested interest.
Recent researches on 1857 however argue that self-interested motives did not have much significance before the combined opposition to the unpopular British regime.
Some historians view the Revolt of 1857 as the first war of Indian independence. Those who don’t agree with this interpretation argue that the rebel leaders did not make an attempt to establish a new social order. They tried to restore the old Mughal rule by inviting Bahadur Shah II.
It is said that "Although Indian initiatives and priorities were so central in the experience of change there was no national revolt in 1857. The discontented were fractured in loyalty and intention, often looking back to a society and a policy which were no longer viable".Thus, it was not revolution but just a restoration.
Recent studies on the Revolt of 1857, however, focus on the popular participation in the revolt. Besides the sepoys and Taluqdars, rural peasantry participated in large numbers in the revolt. In the case of Awadh, it has been shown that taluqdars and peasants jointly launched the attack.
Even in many places when taluqdars made peace with the British, peasants continued their movement. The sepoys had linkage with their kinsmen in the villages and the revolt of the sepoys influenced the civilian population to ventilate their grievances against the British rule. Thus, the Revolt of 1857 took the character of a popular uprising.