in what ways was the revolt of 1857 unprecedented

The following points may help you:

Revolt of 1857 is often referred as the First War of Independence  which was the result of many factors.
b. Discontentment among the soldiers, policy of doctrine of lapse, annexation of Awadh, economic exploitation of the country, incident of greased cartridges all culminated in the rebellion.,
 c.  However, its nature has been contested by the historians. 
d. Some consider it as the first war of independence whereas some consider it as a Sepoy mutiny,
e. This is because t he revolt did not assume a nation wide dimension. Participation from South India was almost  ni. States like  Rajasthan, Punjab,  Sindh   did not participate in revolt.
f. Lack of unity among the Princely states who were concerned about their own autonomous status.
g. Historians also argue that it lacked national character. Many sections did not participate in the revolt.

h. Merchants , money lenders did not participate in the revolt as they  benefited   from British economic policies.
i. The modern educated Indians did not participate in revolt and they believed that British rule in India would modernise the Indian society which is characterised by superstitions and many irrational practises like  sati.
k. Even  ,  Sepoys   could not frame a proper plan of action and often acted like a mob.
l. It lacked central leadership
m. However despite numerous interpretations, revolt 
for the first time brought the people of the country together against the British rule.
n. Revolt laid the foundation of the future freedom strug

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