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The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire

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The story of how the East India Company took over large swaths of Asia, and the devastating results of the corporation running a country. In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army. The creation of this new go The story of how the East India Company took over large swaths of Asia, and the devastating results of the corporation running a country. In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army. The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional company and became something much more unusual: an international corporation transformed into an aggressive colonial power. Over the course of the next 47 years, the company's reach grew until almost all of India south of Delhi was effectively ruled from a boardroom in the city of London.


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The story of how the East India Company took over large swaths of Asia, and the devastating results of the corporation running a country. In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army. The creation of this new go The story of how the East India Company took over large swaths of Asia, and the devastating results of the corporation running a country. In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army. The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional company and became something much more unusual: an international corporation transformed into an aggressive colonial power. Over the course of the next 47 years, the company's reach grew until almost all of India south of Delhi was effectively ruled from a boardroom in the city of London.

30 review for The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire

  1. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    The question of how a relatively small group of Englishmen was able to subjugate the entire sprawling nation of India is a source of lasting disquiet. Like all of William Dalrymple's books, this history of the East India Company inspires both awe and melancholy. The EIC arrived in India at a moment in which the power of the Mughal Empire had already been shattered. Aurangzeb had mismanaged his realms, and Maratha and Afghan forces were rising on its peripheries. The death blow to Mughal power ho The question of how a relatively small group of Englishmen was able to subjugate the entire sprawling nation of India is a source of lasting disquiet. Like all of William Dalrymple's books, this history of the East India Company inspires both awe and melancholy. The EIC arrived in India at a moment in which the power of the Mughal Empire had already been shattered. Aurangzeb had mismanaged his realms, and Maratha and Afghan forces were rising on its peripheries. The death blow to Mughal power however had been dealt by the Safavid Persian invader Nader Shah, who had sacked the great city of Delhi and carried its riches back to Iran. "The Anarchy" of the title refers to the state of India at the time of the EIC's arrival and thereafter: one in which a mighty empire had fragmented into countless warring polities. A small group of energetic, ambitious and well-funded outsiders can wreak havoc in such a situation. And wreak havoc they did. The EIC started off by asking for commercial rights. They soon graduated to hiring increasingly powerful mercenary armies and using them to impose their will on local Indian rulers amid The Anarchy. They played off rivals against one another and did not hesitate to pick and choose their preferred candidates and engineer their rise. The EIC followed Tacitus' dictum of picking the native rulers who would be most useful for enslaving the population rather than ruling directly. They won control of taxation rights and used them to press for the most devastatingly extractive terms possible, with no interest in long-term sustainability or the wellbeing of the land and people. Rival merchants were bullied and, if necessary, beaten into doing business on the EIC's gallingly unfair terms. They created a mechanism for the ruthless, methodical plunder of India, engineering a massive extraction of wealth such as the world has seldom seen. It was corporate brigandage of a type that still looks disturbingly familiar today, even without the mercenary armies. It was interesting to note that the Indians actually figured out the British game quite quickly. Local rulers like the Maratha statesman Nana Phadnavis and Tipu Sultan of Mysore grasped that the British had designs to conquer and effectively enslave all of India by playing local rivals off against each other. Religious boundaries were more fluid than today and Hindu and Muslim rulers frequently allied with one another and kept diverse courts. With the help of the French, they also developed modern military commands that were able to match the British in time. There were several military campaigns that nearly succeeded in ejecting the EIC from the country. Agonizingly small turns of fate prevented them from reaching success, thus was India doomed to two centuries more of grinding immiseration. An important lesson of the book is that sectarianism was less of a force in India's history than portrayed today. It was the Hindu Marathas who reinstalled the Mughal Shah Alam in Delhi (even though in the end his dynasty wound up a mere puppet of the British until the 1857 War of Independence). Tipu Sultan, though proudly Muslim, also seemed to have been deeply influenced by many Hindu beliefs and practices. This is totally normal given that Islam was practiced in a Hindu environment for over a millennia in India. Tipu patronized Brahmin institutions and worked actively to win the sympathy of his Hindu subjects. The undercurrent of the book is a rebuttal to the sectarian historiography of Hindu nationalists currently in vogue in India, as well as Islamists who idealize a supposedly purified subcontinental vision of religion. The history of India as a whole is a heartbreaking one. Even granting that, the rule of the EIC is a particularly grim episode. The British conquered India, but, unlike the Persians, Turks and Arabs, they refused to dissolve themselves in the great ocean of Indian civilization. They just extracted and extracted. The EIC operated with the singleminded, sociopathic purpose that only an inhuman social technology like the corporation could muster. Dalrymple describes in great detail how the Bengal was totally despoiled and tell into famine not long after the British took power. I would have appreciated more analysis of the long-term financial cost of this enterprise to India, but quite a vivid picture is still painted here from contemporary reports of the period. The entire country of India was gradually stripped of its wealth, which was shipped back to a distant European island. Even coins themselves quickly became hard to find in India. Any ruler of nobility found themselves quickly at the risk of violence. A new class of financiers allied to the British began to rise during the EIC's rule, replacing the famous Jagat Seth bankers. This new class would end up appreciating the colonial period. Many new local rulers were simply criminals: predators and opportunists unleashed by the collapse of order. British liberal opinion was quite harsh on the EIC's excesses and its rapacity was known as far away as America. Edmund Burke gave a famous speech denouncing the company and American revolutionaries used it as a bogeyman to goad their countrymen into revolt. The EIC hardly bothered to hide who they were. At one point the famous British General Arthur Wellesley literally held a toast to "the corpse of India", after which one of the chapters of this book is titled. Although a few EIC officials wound up being lovers of India, many of the rank-and-file were brutal and incurious men who felt nothing about humiliating, bludgeoning and robbing Indians of every class. Sadly the British yoke was not thrown off India sooner. We are still living with the painful results of their extractive and divisive rule.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    The story of the East India Company, nominally of London, is a huge, sprawling, fascinating and gripping collection of great stories. The stories are of wars, battles, heroes, cowards, lovers, fools, incompetents, rape, plunder, torture and death. Lots of death. William Dalrymple has linked the stories into the history of the Company, that unregulated, arrogant and racist firm that took over the Indian subcontinent, piece by piece from the early 1700s, and held it and milked it until 1859 (when The story of the East India Company, nominally of London, is a huge, sprawling, fascinating and gripping collection of great stories. The stories are of wars, battles, heroes, cowards, lovers, fools, incompetents, rape, plunder, torture and death. Lots of death. William Dalrymple has linked the stories into the history of the Company, that unregulated, arrogant and racist firm that took over the Indian subcontinent, piece by piece from the early 1700s, and held it and milked it until 1859 (when the British government took over the milking and abuse itself). The Anarchy of the title refers to what Indians call the Great Anarchy, a period as the British showed up when constant wars and invasions redistributed (concentrated) the wealth continuously, and when no one was ever quite sure whose empire they were living in from one year to the next. The various Emperors, nabobs, nawabs, viziers and shahs were constantly making alliances, ignoring them, going to war, combining, separating, and killing. Always killing. Piles of bodies and rivers of blood. And betraying. Almost as much betraying as killing it often seems. It makes for a riveting read, which becomes more amazing the farther you get into it. Dalrymple keeps up the pace and entrances with remarkable stories. India was a dependable engine of wealth. From its fabrics to its jewels, its gold to its spices, it was forever creating wealth. Every so often, an intruder would swoop in from the next province or from Afghanistan, clean out the treasury and take every last thing of value from everyone. Plus future reparations. And yet, a few years later, there was prosperity once again. There was always wealth for bribes, and everyone was on the take, from Company employees up to royalty. And the figures were huge. Prosperity and chaos in one huge package. This was the cycle the Company stumbled into. It began as a combination of small firms of English traders and pirates to better exploit Indian trade. It had a public share basis, and soon nearly half the members of parliament and the House of Lords were shareholders, and therefore compromised in their dealings with it. The dividends were gigantic, as a ship bringing Indian goods home would regularly net four times their cost. The ship would then return to India, loaded with gold and silver for the next shipment. This was not good enough. The Company wormed its way into Indian politics, allying with one potentate or another as needed to maintain its presence and expand it. It would pay taxes or not as it positioned itself more and more firmly as a power on its own. Its employees were on the take, doing side deals and making fortunes for themselves, which they shipped back to England on Company boats, draining more wealth from India. The tipping point seems to have come in 1761, Dalrymple says. The Company now had as many as 500 factories running throughout eastern India (Bengal, Orissa and Bihar). It had actually founded Calcutta for a factory and it attracted traders and workers, becoming a major city and port, as well as the Company’s head office in India. Even then, Indians recognized it as the threat it could clearly become. After endless complaints about the arrogance and extortion by the Company Men (as they entered a village all the shops would close and pedestrians fled), the Nawab Mir Qasim in whose territory the Company was located got creative. He decided not to fight. The Company not only trained local sepoys in English style warfare, but hired mercenaries and press-ganged French soldiers into serving. So rather than fight, Qasim decided to end all duties, leveling the playing field. Until this point, the Company simply refused to pay, giving it an unfair advantage over Indian traders, who had to. The Nawab calculated that increasing business for native traders would compensate for the loss of duties. This cost his treasury, and infuriated the Company. Qasim had to go. By 1763 the Company had transformed into an “autonomous imperial power” Dalrymple says, with its own army, navy, and designs on the whole subcontinent. As it took on Qasim’s territory, it taxed like any other potentate – hugely and harshly, so that ships from home didn’t have to bring gold any longer. The company became self-financing. This didn’t stop greedy and incompetent mangers from nearly bankrupting it several times. Between the shareholders in power and being too big to fail, bailout loans always appeared when needed. By the 1770s, even Parliament had to take notice. In 1774, the first parliamentary oversight committee landed in Calcutta and was immediately offended that they only received a 17 gun salute instead of 21, thus establishing their priorities. They were further horrified that the governor general received them for luncheon in informal attire – not even a ruffled shirt. Real governance issues and political priorities could clearly wait. By far the most revolting section concerns Ghulam Qadir’s sacking of Delhi. The personal horrors he inflicted are as brutal as anything ever printed, and indeed, British readers were originally denied the sight by censors. He blinded people with hot needles, gouged out their eyes, took everything they had including their clothes, and those he didn’t kill he threw in prison without food or water. As he left with everything his army could carry, he blew up what remained. When he was finally caught, he was treated the same way. He was chained up and paraded in a cage for three days. Day one his eyes were scooped out, day two his ears cut off and hung around his neck, followed cutting off his hands, feet and genitals. When he was eventually killed, his headless body was hung in public and a dog licked up the blood until a few days later, when both disappeared. This gory horror was followed by an absurd and fraudulent show trial back in London, the social hit of the season, in which the Company’s head man in India faced impeachment. Ironically, of course, Governor General Warren Hastings had been the most effective, efficient and compassionate of the Company’s leaders, tasked with cleaning up the mess of his predecessors. Edmund Burke, the prosecutor, took four days just to make his opening remarks, all but entirely false accusations. It was a litany of lies perpetrated by one man on that original parliamentary committee visit, Philip Francis. Francis simply hated Hastings and would stoop to absolutely anything to undermine him, right up to phony impeachment charges. In this story, Francis, with no knowledge of weapons whatsoever, challenged Hastings to a duel. Hastings let him shoot first, then shot him. Sadly, Francis survived, now even more determined than ever to take Hastings down. He returned to London and worked Parliament to denounce him. The man they should have prosecuted, Robert Clive, was instead a national hero and one of the richest men in Europe as a result of his machinations in India. Clive was uncontrollably violent (which is why he was sent away to India), ruthless, corrupt and smarmy, and that’s why the Company had him back for three tours of duty. Despite his fortune(s), Clive ended up committing suicide. A highly intelligent and hardworking lifelong Company man, Hastings had to stand by and witness it all, noting down everything along the way. Back in England, after seven years of idiotic hearings, Hastings was finally cleared. Completely. But rather than learn from this, the men the Company sent as a series of his successors, each proved far worse than anything Hastings was ever charged with. His immediate successor, Lord Cornwallis, had recently managed to lose the 13 colonies that became the USA. He set out to avenge himself. He went to war of course, greatly expanding the Company’s territory, implemented racist laws such as keeping the children of mixed marriages out of the Company, and as Dalrymple explains it, prevented a middle class that could rise up against him as in the USA. His approach to India was ancient Roman: 1) divide and conquer, lying to allies keep them out of battles as needed, and then attack them when convenient, and 2) Buy the local potentates, give them salaries, and let the citizenry think they still had independence and integrity – personal, political and territorial. Much like the USA replacing foreign governments as needed to keep its trade unhindered, so the Company used everyone to expand on the ground. Cornwallis was followed by the arrogant Lord Wellesley, and his younger brother Arthur, who later became the Duke of Wellington. When the last Indian leader’s troops were defeated, its people raped, tortured and killed, its wealth pillaged and plundered, Governor General Lord Wellesley proposed a toast “to the corpse of India.” Wellesley went his own way, communicating little with head office, eventually bagging almost all of India before he was recalled. By the early 1800s the Company’s private army stood at 195,000, twice the size of the British army. Its spending in Britain alone amounted to a quarter as much as government expenditure. The entire London headquarters staff of the Company numbered all of 35, in a building “just five windows wide.” And this was the largest company in the world. From there, they directed the conquest and acquisition of the entire Indian subcontinent and hundreds of millions of people. It was not just too big to fail, it was an actual threat. As Jeff Mulgan said elsewhere: “It used to be that the banks feared the sovereign. Now the sovereign fears the banks.” So with the East India Company, the poster child for rampant unregulated corporate greed. By 1859, after just 150 years, even the government had had enough and took control of India itself, merging the Company’s army into the British army and disbanding its navy. Things did not get better. Dalrymple ends by showing how gigantic multinationals have mutated into not needing expensive armies and navies to effect their conquests. They use big data, surveillance, lobbying and influence instead. He says the history of the East India Company has never been more relevant than it is today. So it’s not just great storytelling, it’s a look in the mirror. David Wineberg

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ashish Iyer

    Okay guys here is my longest review. To be honest I am not a fan of long reviews. Even if I come across any long reviews of my friends, I mostly ignore or just read 2 paragraphs. (I have huge respect for friends; it’s just me who is lazy enough to not read those long reviews). I am writing this review to justify why I am giving 2 stars to this book considering it has got 4.23/5 stars (199 ratings). I had always been curious how the British had conquered India, with so few troops. The East India Okay guys here is my longest review. To be honest I am not a fan of long reviews. Even if I come across any long reviews of my friends, I mostly ignore or just read 2 paragraphs. (I have huge respect for friends; it’s just me who is lazy enough to not read those long reviews). I am writing this review to justify why I am giving 2 stars to this book considering it has got 4.23/5 stars (199 ratings). I had always been curious how the British had conquered India, with so few troops. The East India Company was the first major multi-national company. It came to exist in 1600 with the help of Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake and included veteran Caribbean, pirates and thieves. They set up the company to buy spices directly from the producers (East Indies) and avoid middle man(Arabs) to pay any further commission. After several more bruising encounters with Dutch, the EIC directors decided they had little option but to leave the lucrative Spice Islands (Indonesia) and their aromatic spice trade to the Dutch and focus instead on less competitive but potentially more promising sectors of the trade of Asia: fine cotton textiles, indigo and chintzes. The source of all three of these luxuries was India. India then had a population of 150 million – about a fifth of the world’s total – and was producing about a quarter of global manufacturing ; indeed, in many ways it was the world’s industrial power house and the world’s leader in manufactured textiles. Not for nothing are so many English words connected with weaving – chintz, calico, shawl, pyjamas, khaki, dungarees, cummerbund, taffetas – of Indian origin. Before reaching India, England was very poor country compares to their rivals Portugal and Spain. Massive imports of New World gold had turned Spain into the richest country in Europe, and given Portugal control of the seas and spices of the East, so bringing it in a close second place. After reaching India they became richest and most powerful country. This tells us that India was indeed golden bird. By eighteenth-century standards, it was an economic giant, the most advanced capitalist organization in the world. East India Company became most powerful in England after the monarch. Roe wrote a wonderful love letter to Elizabeth, Lady Huntingdon, from ‘Indya’ on 30 October 1616. I would like to thank Charlotte Merton for sending me this reference. So this tells us that India was known during those times. This gives answer to those who keep on pushing the narrative that India became a country or known after independence. Or some even gives credit to Britishers for making India as one. One thing i have seen common in every Muslim kings, they always loot everything, take women from other religion, ask men to convert who are not Muslim and change name of every city like Siraj Ud-Daula renamed Calcutta to Alianagar after Imam Ali. Siraj-ud-Daulah was a pervert who often picked Hindu girls. Even Jagat-Seth’s daughter was his prey. And he enjoyed atrocities against Hindus. Mir Jafar stood by the people of Bengal though with other intentions. Book also mentioned Shah Alam emperor of Delhi had intimate relationship with his adopted son Ghulam Qadir. I have always come across this kind homosexual relation in them. Later book also mentioned that Ghulam Qadir was castrated because he was getting too much attention from females of the royal harem. And later this Ghulam Qadir took a revenge on Shah Alam by plucking his eyes and putting needles on Shah Alam’s princes and ask them to dance in front of all. Then later he ordered to beat wives of Shah Alam senseless and throw them back into prison. I will talk about Tipu Sultan in details later. Lets get back to Britishers now. The British felt nothing for the country, not even for their closest allies and servants. This was why those Indians who initially welcomed the British quickly changed their minds because ‘these new rulers pay no regard to the concerns of Hindustanis, and suffered them to be mercilessly plundered, fleeced, oppressed and tormented by those officers of their appointing’. The Bengal famine was so immense that EIC had outdone the Spaniards in Peru! They were at least butchers on a religious principle, however diabolical their zeal. We have murdered, deposed, plundered, usurped – say what think you of the famine in Bengal, in which three millions perished, being caused by a monopoly of the provisions by the servants of the East India Company? All this is come out, is coming out – unless the gold that inspired these horrors can quash them. The revenue of Eic was so low in Bengal that one bank declared bankruptcy. At the same time it was widely recognized that it was Indian wealth that was now helping propel Britain’s economy and that ‘the first and most immediate consequence’ of the failure of the EIC would be ‘national bankruptcy’. I was expecting writer will also mentioned about Madras famine after all it was E.I.C. ‘s first Indian colonized city. 20 Oct 1877 there was drawing published in London depicting starving people awaiting famine relief in Bangalore, India. Famine began in 1876, and while around 5.5m Indians starved to death 100,000s of tonnes of food was exported to England with almost no relief. (Even there is a painting in google, I think you can find it). At times I felt this book has heavily used sources and references from Ghulam Hussain Khan and London museum. It was irritating for a while. Author was keep on pushing the narrative that Jagat Seths financed East India Company but what author is not telling is you that Jagat Seths also financed Marathas and Sadhus At one point, they were desperately trying to finance anyone who could get rid of their Nawab, the Jihadi rapist Siraj-ud-daulah. (Note: Even Bhama Shah was a Jain who gave all his wealth to Maharana Pratap so that Mewar could fight against Akbar which eventually allowed him to restore his army and much of his territory.) I hated the way writer keep on saying Maratha as a war lords. No they weren't. It is important to note that Marathas were in Punjab, Delhi, Malwa, Gujarat, the doab, Karnataka all parts of Maharashtra, Nizam's territory, Rajputana, Thanjavur. They had that big empire. Every time one talks of Marathas in Bengal, one must also mention that it was another Maratha army under the Peshwa that chased away Raghuji Bhonsle from Bengal. The repetitive refrain of Maratha raids in Bengal as the single most barbaric invasions are a skewed by the British initially. I guess it made perfect sense for them to portray themselves as a better alternative. Maratha rulers gave due importance to provincial administration(Gwalior, Dhar, Indore, Baroda, Nagpur, Thanjavur). It was similar to that of feudalism in Europe and even Vijaynagara empire had same system. The Maratha rulers efficiently managed their army and taxation in their capital city of Pune/Satara and other provinces through this system. I find no mentioned of this too. The fact that many Indian institutions were destroyed by the British and how they introduced their education system is well presented. The case of the famines that the British caused by diverting grain from India is well written. Industrial Revolution was built on Indian money, while destroying India's economy is again well explained. The Hindu-Muslim divide was created by the British. I recently read somewhere that Britain ruled India for about 200 years, a period that was marred with extreme poverty and famine. India's wealth depleted in these two centuries. The scars of colonization remain despite Britain leaving India over 70 years ago. Between 1765 and 1938, the drain amounted to 9.2 trillion pounds($45 trillion). I thought author will talk about Atrocity literature written by Britishers against India and Hindus. British Evangelicals and missionaries anxious to Anglicize and Christianize India by using an extinct practice of Sati. They did their best to portray Hinduism in the worst possible way and on other side they open up the country to religious conversion. The fabrication of evidence, the wanton exaggeration of data, the shameless duplicity of foreign players, rabid evangelical motivations and cold blooded manipulations of public policy. Why doesn’t writer talk about missionaries, how they wanted to convert India. And how can we forget about ‘Criminal Tribes Act 1857’ brought by British to banned certain tribes. It was a law to control thuggee tribes. If you are born from that tribe, you will have to face consequences. Such are atrocities literature or law written by these Britishers. Now thug became a curse word in English dictionary. The most saddening and horrifying part is how writer is glorifying Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan was the massive destroyer of Temples in south started his career from Shringa pattanam. The walls of the Jama Masjid built by Tipu sultan in Srirangapatam tell a different story. You can see base of temples. I so wish I could upload photos here to show it here as a proof. Tipu Sultan was a freedom fighter because he fought the British (Though he sought to establish an Islamic Caliphate, invited the Afghan king to invade India and collaborated with the French, and was defeated by a combined force of the British, Marathas and the Nizam). He imported French officers to train his troops and French engineers to rebuild the defenses of the island fortress of Srirangapatnam. Author only mentioned this “Of the 7,000 prisoners Tipu captured in the course of the next few months of warfare against the Company, around 300 were forcibly circumcised, forcibly converted to Islam and given Muslim names and clothes. By the end of the year, one in five of all the British soldiers in India were held prisoner by Tipu in his sophisticated fortress of Seringapatam. Even more humiliatingly, several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear dresses – ghagra cholis – and entertain the court in the manner of nautch (dancing) girls”. Look how insidiously an idea is buttressed with careful deletion of facts. As an example of British hardheartedness, our eminences harped on the British taking Tipu’s two sons as hostages. However they concealed the fact that taking war hostages was originally accepted practice among Muslim kings. Mir jumla, a general under Aurangzeb, defeated and looted the entire treasury of the king of Assam. And he didn’t stop there. He demanded King’s sons and a daughter as ransom till the King brought the remaining amount. Mir Jumla also took son of Gonia Phukan, Borgohain, Gad Gonia. When Khurram‘s(Shah Jahan) rebellion against his own father failed, Jahangir took his son’s sons – his own grandsons, Dara and Aurangzeb – as captives. Even Rajputs king had to station atleast one son in the badshah’s court as a sign of respect. Only Maharana Pratap refused to send his son. It is also a fact that every such prisoner was compulsorily converted. But Cornvolis who took Tipu’s sons didn’t convert them to Christianity. Even author didnt mentioned the fact Tipu’s father Hyder Ali who backstabbed his King Wodeyar changed the administrative language from Kannada to Farsi. You can still see this even today. And how can we forget Tipu the mass murderer changed the name of entire cities and town : Brahmapuri to Syltanpet, Kallikote to Farookabad, Chitradurga to Farook yab Hissar, Coorg to Zafarabad, Devanahalli to Yusufabad, Dinigul to Khaleelabad, Mysore to Nazarabad. There are many such names. How can we forget Tipu’s atrocities on Malabar areas. To this day Mandyam Iyengars of Karnataka dont celebrate Diwali. The so called "Tiger of Mysore" massacred close to 800 Mandyam Iyengar men, women and children in cold blood in the town of Melkote. This incident is not mentioned in this book. The writer gleefully praising him. To this day Mandyam Iyengars don't celebrate Diwali. If i can tell you huge biased in Tipu Sultan narrative in this book because i have read some books on him. God knows how much biased writer much be on Bengal, Delhi and Maratha. There are so many things to point out but i don't have that much time to mentioned all that here. These kind of books set bad precedent. Even you can see this book have high ratings. This book goes in details of EIC's violence on India and of the loot of India. I felt that book will also talk about first war of Independence. It’s the British who called the 1857 uprising as sepoy mutiny to downplay the inhuman excessees that violate human rights. I am honestly a bit disappointed from this book. I was expecting lot of things from this because this was a great topic. Even book didn't talk about Sikh empire. I would have appreciated if author had mentioned more about EIC rather than internal empires politics and wars, it would have been better. Even I thought author will write an account of the atrocities committed by British rule on Indian economy, politics and culture. Somehow I felt author cherry picked his sources and references to push his narrative. If this is the way he writes all his books then I am not going to read any other books of his. This books is my first and probably the last book of William Dalrymble. Just as medieval mosques were built from the rubble of India's great temples, all the glitter of the modern west is the dust of the India's past.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dmitri

    William Dalrymple tells how a single business operation replaced the Mughal empire to rule the Indian subcontinent. The East India Company was a first major multi-national corporation, and an early example of a joint stock enterprise. Most events occur between 1756-1803, around the time of the American and French revolutions. The story begins in 1599 with the charter of the Company, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the lifetime of Shakespeare. The Company was preceded by Walt William Dalrymple tells how a single business operation replaced the Mughal empire to rule the Indian subcontinent. The East India Company was a first major multi-national corporation, and an early example of a joint stock enterprise. Most events occur between 1756-1803, around the time of the American and French revolutions. The story begins in 1599 with the charter of the Company, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the lifetime of Shakespeare. The Company was preceded by Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake and included veteran Carribean privateers, state sponsored pirates who attacked the Spanish armada for gold and silver. The first Company voyage brought back spice from Indonesia by robbing a Portuguese ship. Outdone by the Dutch in the spice trade, the Company began trade in India with the benefits of a British monopoly, license to raise an army and seize territory, all endorsed by the Crown. At the time of the Company's expansion of power the Mughal Empire had been weakened by a series of invasions and internal conflicts. Increasing intolerance had pushed Maratha rebels under Shivaji to strike north from the Deccan plateau in the late 17th century. Sikhs struck south from the Punjab. Prince fought against prince. In 1739 the Persian warlord Nader Shah sacked Delhi, and made off with the spoils of an empire. The period is known as the Anarchy. Construction of fortifications at a British port in Bengal provoked the local Nawab and Mughal army to destroy the trading post in 1756. Captured British were thrown into the so-called 'Black Hole of Calcutta' where a significant number died from trampling and suffocation. Robert Clive, a violent and ruthless soldier of fortune hired by the Company, would defeat and plunder the Mughals and oust the French from Bengal, returning home the richest man in Europe. In 1764 the Company put down a Mughal rebellion, and replaced the empire as tax collectors of the wealthiest lands on the subcontinent. The Company amassed a private army twice the size of Britain's. Draught, famine and Company hoarding caused a massive bailout in 1773 by the Crown. Tea shipped west triggered the American revolution, and opium shipped east resulted in war with China. At it's height the Company accounted for half of the world's trade. Much is covered during forty years. Warren Hastings, Clive’s successor as governor of Bengal, attempted to reform the worst excesses of Company rule, and was put on trial by his rival countrymen. His successor would be Cornwallis, the general who surrendered the American colonies to Washington. Tipu Sultan, ‘Tiger of Mysore’, was sought as an ally by Napoleon, until foiled by Nelson at the Nile. Tipu was defeated by Wellington of future Waterloo fame. Dalrymple doesn’t mince words about events that occured, nor do eyewitnesses of the period. On British incursions before the battle of Plassey: ‘What honor is left us when we take orders from a handful of traders?’. On the handover of the Mughal empire after the battle of Buxar: ‘The entire transaction took less time than the sale of a jackass’. All was realized under withering fire of artillery, executed by Indians armed and trained by the Company. Dalrymple's unifying narrative source is the Mughal court historian Ghulam Hussain Khan's epic 'Review of Modern Times'. He also scoured the India Office collection in London and National Archives in Delhi. As noted in the introduction 'English and Mughal records of the period are extensive'. Primarily a military account, his contribution is gathering and presenting it all in an entertaining and edifying manner. His talent for storytelling is clearly shown. For a look at what corporate capitalism can be, this is a fascinating case. The Company thrived more than 200 years ago. Some things have changed, others have not. Territorial takeover is frowned upon, but economic conquest is far from over. Corporations, lobbyists and politicians can effectively do the same work. The will to profit, avoid regulation and taxes, is intrinsic. Dalrymple does not state this explicitly in the text, but the parallels are evident.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amitava Das

    This is another scholarly work of India’s colonial history , written with as much panache , passion and verve as I have come to expect from the finest living historian of colonial India , focusing on the anarchic period in Hindusthan triggering after the death of the last Mughal super power Aurangzeb in 1707 (an emperor who collected ten times more revenue than his contemporary King of France Louis XIV and contributed to a quarter of global GDP during his reign ) continuing till 1804 when the Ea This is another scholarly work of India’s colonial history , written with as much panache , passion and verve as I have come to expect from the finest living historian of colonial India , focusing on the anarchic period in Hindusthan triggering after the death of the last Mughal super power Aurangzeb in 1707 (an emperor who collected ten times more revenue than his contemporary King of France Louis XIV and contributed to a quarter of global GDP during his reign ) continuing till 1804 when the East India Company - a mere merchant company of joint stock holders , established themselves , through every trick in the book of politics , as the unchallenged sovereign master over a vast Indian subcontinent - the jewel in the British crown as it eventually came to be known , an event that really has no parallel in all of history. In this context , The Anarchy is the prequel for Dalrymple’s earlier masterpiece - The Last Mughal - which chronicles the life of Bahadur Shah Zafar and Delhi caught up in the great revolt of 1857. This brilliant work , Dalrymple’s latest , details not only these tricks, intrigues , subterfuge , chicanery and devious diplomatic policies unleashed to loot rape and plunder one of the world’s wealthiest nations , but also the supreme political cunning , agility and foresight by which EIC - the world’s first corporate superpower- became de facto ruler and overlords of all the various factional powers which included the last independent Nawab of Bengal- Siraj, the dethroned Mughal prince and eventual puppet king Shah Alam, the valiant Nawab of Avadh Shuja ud Daulah, the rebel Mir Qashim, the immensely influential banking clan of Jagat Seths ( even wealthier than their European counterpart the Rothschilds) , the vast and powerful Maratha Confederacy , the destructive Rohillas, the glorious Mysore Sultanate of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan , the Nizams of Hyderabad and of course the French - their bitter transcontinental rivals - in the mere period of fifty years. This is a book steeped in authentic history (footnotes and bibliography at the end alone cover 100 pages ) , based on Persian ,Urdu and Arabic texts of contemporaneous period and not, as is the usual case of revisionist works of history , on ideologically biased post-colonial texts that often skews and subverts narratives in the service of the former. Dalrymple’s gaze is neutral , wise , penetrating ,digging into the heart of every conflict and political manoeuvre with the skill and magic of an epic novelist , while maintaining historical integrity so much so that neither the colonials nor the colonised emerges either in simple black and white. It’s the immensely complex greys (of characters , situations and circumstances ) that comes alive , in all their multiplicity of shades in Dalrymple’s vivid prose. More than anything - it shows in unerring detail the machinations of commerce and the role of ruthless financial dealings and subterfuge undertaken by EIC in conjunction with the displaced Nawabs and the banking clans which ultimately sealed the fate of this country for the next 150 years till its independence, something that many other scholarly works on colonial history have failed to adequately portray. A stunning achievement.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.*** Imagine if a multinational corporation not only was a global leader in trade but also had at its beck and call an army which it used to subjugate other countries to protect its profits and interests. It may seem like a farfetched scenario but in the past a corporation with these characteristics existed: The East India Company. The rise and excesses of what would become the world’s first great multinational corporatio ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.*** Imagine if a multinational corporation not only was a global leader in trade but also had at its beck and call an army which it used to subjugate other countries to protect its profits and interests. It may seem like a farfetched scenario but in the past a corporation with these characteristics existed: The East India Company. The rise and excesses of what would become the world’s first great multinational corporation, are described in The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence and the Pillage of an Empire by William Dalrymple. This isn’t Dalrymple’s first time writing about topics concerning India, but this is his first book on the topic of the Company. With this work, Dalrymple wishes not only to relay the history of the Company but also to show the reader the danger of corporations operating unregulated. With hindsight, it might seem that the Company was destined for success, however, Dalrymple points out that its rivals were better funded, had been at the game longer and had better luck in their endeavors. “The result of […] inadequate funding was a small company with small fleets, and no capital of its own.” Circumstances, however, conspired to change that once the Company began to focus on India. Once they obtained a foothold in India, the Company began conducting business with the local authorities who owned allegiance to the Mughal Empire. But as one observer describes: “When they first came to this country they petitioned the then government in a humble manner for the liberty to purchase a spot of ground to build a factory house upon […] they have enticed several merchants and others to go and take protection under them and collect a revenue which amounts to Rs 100,000 […] They rob and plunder and carry a great number of the king’s subjects of both sexes into slavery.” The author then details how the Company went from just doing business to becoming a local power player to becoming the de facto ruler of India guided by the leadership of men like Robert Clive, Charles Cornwallis and Richard Wellesley. But he also highlights the actions of Indian leaders in the Company’s story, such as Emperor Shah Alam and Tipu of Mysore. Showing the story from both the English and Indian perspectives and using firsthand accounts to show what was going on in the subcontinent is one of the strengths of this book. It gives the reader a better understanding of the choices made by both sides and why Indian rulers felt siding with the Company was a better choice than fighting or vice versa. The author also seems to enjoy profiling the leaders on both sides especially Shah Alam, the Mughal Emperor and tragic figure. At times, these profiles go into details that can make them seem like a distraction from the discussion of the Company but fleshing out these individual’s personalities adds gravity to the effects that greed and mistrust had on both sides. Dalrymple also shows how many powerful corporations today share similar characteristics to the Company such as threatening to move to greener pastures if local governments imposed higher taxes, putting profit before the local community’s welfare and when facing bankruptcy asking for government to bail them out. But while these comparisons are spread throughout the book, these points tend to get lost in the historical narrative. It is not until the very last chapter that the line from the Company to the corporations of the present is driven home for reader. While Dalrymple assures us that corporations today aren’t exactly like those of Company, in that they don’t have armies and navies, he does remind us that the “most powerful among them do not need their own armies: they can rely on governments to protect their interests and bail them out.” Dalrymple writes an informative history on the East India Company and the unchecked greed that drove it to eventually wield the power of a nation state in India. Not only does the reader get an inside look at the Company’s rise but also an in-depth look at how the major players, both English and Indian, at times inadvertently, aided the Company to the detriment of the Indian populace and the enrichment of the Company and Britain. In a time when corporations seem more powerful than ever, The Anarchy is a cautionary tale that we would be remiss to ignore.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Henri

    Dalrymple's writing is so vivid, every page is full of colour. This is not an exception from the rule at all. He manages to make every page accessible to the wider public without losing credibility points from the academic interest either. This was like reading Treasure Island or a Wilbur Smith novel. Except why would you, if history is that bit more real, brutal and unforgiving?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Howdle

    The Anarchy investigates a fascinating story: the rise and fall of the East India Company from the Elizabethan period through to the Victorian. The range of research and depth of narration is breathtaking. The result is a narrative filled with farce, horror, and perceptive analysis. For farce, imagine two mighty armies doing battle in a fog... well trying to but for the fact that they cannot see one another. For horror, conjure up treachery and rape as a political methodology. The book is a por The Anarchy investigates a fascinating story: the rise and fall of the East India Company from the Elizabethan period through to the Victorian. The range of research and depth of narration is breathtaking. The result is a narrative filled with farce, horror, and perceptive analysis. For farce, imagine two mighty armies doing battle in a fog... well trying to but for the fact that they cannot see one another. For horror, conjure up treachery and rape as a political methodology. The book is a portrait album of well-drawn cameos, such as an Indian warlord with a substitute diamond nose who tries to eat his meal whilst maggots fall from his rotting proboscis. Not a bad metaphor for what India became in the C18. But the greatest horror is the EIC itself: a mercantile force more powerful than the State, a corporation with an army greater than that of England-- a rapacious business that added the word "loot" into the English language and pursued plunder at all costs. Dalrymple writes with verve and imagination in an epic style that equals the book's grand designs. This is a prescient book-- a study of what happens when "The Sword and Trade" become inseparable, when greed exceeds legislation, and what occurs when a world has a global company that exceeds political borders and operates in a realm that people cannot understand but literally buy into. When the State finally tried to reign in the EIC after the Impeachment of Hastings, at a time when the spider's web of commerce had captured India, it was heard not to think of Google, Facebook and Amazon and Uber, and how hard it is to control a tiger that has become a monopolistic hunter.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul Dembina

    I was under the impression this book was a history of the East India Company, but it's not really that. More a history of the rise of the Company against a backdrop of the shifting loyalties and machinations of the various Indian groups already present there and which the Company exploited for their own ends

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sahil Pradhan

    In 1930, the American historian and philosopher Will Durant wrote that Britain’s ‘conscious and deliberate bleeding of India… [was the] greatest crime in all history’. He was not the only one to denounce the rapacity and cruelty of British rule, and his assessment was not exaggerated. Almost thirty-five million Indians died because of acts of commission and omission by the British—in famines, epidemics, communal riots and wholesale slaughter like the reprisal killings after the 1857 War of Indep In 1930, the American historian and philosopher Will Durant wrote that Britain’s ‘conscious and deliberate bleeding of India… [was the] greatest crime in all history’. He was not the only one to denounce the rapacity and cruelty of British rule, and his assessment was not exaggerated. Almost thirty-five million Indians died because of acts of commission and omission by the British—in famines, epidemics, communal riots and wholesale slaughter like the reprisal killings after the 1857 War of Independence and the Amritsar massacre of 1919. Besides the deaths of Indians, British rule impoverished India in a manner that beggars belief. When the East India Company took control of the country, in the chaos that ensued after the collapse of the Mughal empire, India’s share of world GDP was 23 per cent. When the British left it was just above 3 per cent. The British empire in India began with the East India Company, incorporated in 1600, by royal charter of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, to trade in silk, spices and other profitable Indian commodities. Within a century and a half, the Company had become a power to reckon with in India. In 1757, under the command of Robert Clive, Company forces defeated the ruling Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daula of Bengal at Plassey, through a combination of superior artillery and even more superior chicanery. A few years later, the young and weakened Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, was browbeaten into issuing an edict that replaced his own revenue officials with the Company’s representatives. Over the next several decades, the East India Company, backed by the British government, extended its control over most of India, ruling with a combination of extortion, double-dealing, and outright corruption backed by violence and superior force. This state of affairs continued until 1857 when large numbers of the Company’s Indian soldiers spearheaded the first major rebellion against colonial rule. After the rebels were defeated, the British Crown took over power and ruled the country ostensibly more benignly until 1947, when India won independence. But all this Wikipedian knowledge stuff is boldly challenged by India’s most famous and sought after historian, William Dalrymple. In his tome of a work, Dalrymple has the courage to challenge the common thought idea of how Britain looted India, but Dalrymple shows the actual truth that it was not the whole Britain but rather a company of British officials who took India under their control. In this explosive book, bestselling author William Dalrymple reveals with acuity, impeccable research, and trademark wit, just how disastrous the company rule was for India. William Dalrymple’s new book, The Anarchy — of how a commercial company ended up controlling a vast empire — is a story of corporate power that we need to know One of the first words to enter the English language from India was ‘loot’, writes William Dalrymple, setting the stage for The Anarchy, a story of how a “dangerously unregulated” private joint stock company, housed in a nondescript London building, raised an enormous army and went on to ravage the Indian subcontinent. In what is easily his most ambitious and arguably his most engrossing work, the Scottish historian and writer makes a case that the empire was won not on the strength of military superiority, but as a result of the cunning of a corporate house that was helped along by amoral Indian bankers who financed its operations. In his familiar passionate manner, Dalrymple cuts through the stodge that pervades a lot of writing on history to serve up a book that has it all — the compulsive pull of a thriller, the erudition of a significant piece of non-fiction, and the loveliness of a piece of literature. Never before have we found ourselves in such bewilderment on vital issues relating to nationalism and patriotism. We are suddenly faced with contrasting views on what allegiance to one’s country means, what makes one a good citizen, who are the heroes of the nation? Who are the villains? Dangerously, more and more people are falling for the wrong answers. In August 1765 the East India Company defeated and captured the young Mughal emperor and forced him to set up in his richest provinces a new government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a vast and ruthless private army. The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional international trading corporation, dealing in silks and spices, and became something much more unusual: an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. In less than half a century it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000 men – twice the size of the British army – and had subdued an entire subcontinent, conquering first Bengal and finally, in 1803, the Mughal capital of Delhi itself. The Company’s reach stretched relentlessly until almost all of India south of the Himalayas was effectively ruled from a boardroom in London. The Anarchy tells the remarkable story of how one of the world’s most magnificent empires disintegrated and came to be replaced by a dangerously unregulated private company, based thousands of miles overseas and answerable only to its shareholders. In his most ambitious and riveting book to date, William Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before, unfolding a timely cautionary tale of the first global corporate power. We more or less know that the East India Company harmed us. But we may not have a full understanding of how large the scale of that oppression was. With his painstaking research, William Dalrymple takes us to an era where our forefathers were toiling in opium fields, our economy was being ravaged, our local businesses killed, our exports made unaffordable by levying high tariffs, and education was offered only to produce a generation of clerks. We need to know this past darkness, where the Indian blood was not valued at all. With man-made famines like the one in Bengal, the East India Company let innumerable people die. We need to understand this evil in order to see the present hate campaign for what it is. We need to realise that those who do not consider every human’s blood to be of equal value, much like the company did not, are the unmistakable dark forces. Many compared the book with An Era of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor, another book that focuses on the Raj. But you know there would be one note of criticism from me for An Era of Darkness and that is what makes it different from Anarchy, and you know its a serious one-star blunder for me. the book’s genre is non-fiction history, and one would surely read the book in that viewpoint. But a historian’s work is to establish facts and information of that particular topic and let people and readers decide the future and give their opinion, but Tharoor does just the opposite. When you turn yourself a politician and give an opinion about what should be done to suffice India’s loss due to the British plunder and loot, you are deviating from your genre and heading towards a political non-fiction, not history. The East India Company no longer exists, and it has, thankfully, no exact modern equivalent. Walmart, which is the world’s largest corporation in revenue terms, does not number among its assets a fleet of nuclear submarines; neither Facebook nor Shell possesses regiments of infantry. Yet the East India Company – the first great multinational corporation, and the first to run amok – was the ultimate model for many of today’s joint-stock corporations. The most powerful among them do not need their own armies: they can rely on governments to protect their interests and bail them out. The East India Company remains history’s most terrifying warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power – and the insidious means by which the interests of shareholders become those of the state. Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, its story has never been more current. We live in an era where the villain is being extolled. Where the integrity of our first Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the builder of modern India, is being questioned. Where the pioneer of the freedom struggle, the Congress party, is the subject of a sinister hate campaign. In Anarchy, consummate debater and author William Dalrymple recreates the company Raj with all its horrors and also elucidates the awe-inspiring struggle of India’s Mughal emperors. He gives us a valuable insight on how dark forces operate and on who are harbingers of hope—it’s a valuable lesson at a time when thugs are masquerading as our saviours. Dalrymple paints two pictures of how the Mughal empire slowly crushed under it’s own huge weight and wealth, and how a company of officials took a whole country under their own hands. The book starts in a typical Dalrymple start of explaining the backdrop of the whole story. The introduction I hope would clear down your doubts regarding the book and its contents. Many however believe that Dalrymple writes flawed history, but that’s not true for his writings are pure history and he researches and brings out the best of information from the lost annals of history. The book is very meticulously researched and this intense work is very well channelled through their extraordinary narration and captivating plot. Anarchy is such a perfect piece of the whole bloody Company Raj history that I would declare it truly as a “legend in the field of history.” Dalrymple has here written an account of the Company rule such as we have never had before, of the events leading up to it and of its aftermath, seen through the prism of both the conqueror and the conquered’s life. He has vividly described the street life of the Mughal capital in the days before the catastrophe happened, he has put his finger deftly on every crucial point in the story, which earlier historians have sometimes missed, and he has supplied some of the most informative footnotes I have ever read. On top of that, he has splendidly conveyed the sheer joy of researching a piece of history, something every true historian knows. What does Dalrymple add to this story? Those who have read his “White Mughals” and “The Last Mughal” will know what to expect: a readable style, a deep humanity and, above all, an extraordinary skill in evoking the lost worlds of Mughals and British. In his earlier books, Dalrymple accomplished this feat by tracking down the memoirs and chronicles of writers in Urdu and Persian — the court language of India — retrieved from the cellars and back rooms of secondhand booksellers. One leaves Anarchy with a sense of the effervescent power of a corporate power, just like current times, to make and unmake the worlds we inhabit, yet a sense that is not divorced from an understanding of the challenges that dot this process of negotiating the conditions of our cultural inhabitations. For this reason, as Vico would perhaps have it, this book is nothing short of fantastic.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    So who were the East India Company? In this short video DalrympleWill introduces his new book TheAnarchy The Relentless Rise of the East India Company, out now. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000... Description: William Dalrymple's new book tells the story of how the East India Company transformed itself from a small trading company into a powerful colonial force that used its So who were the East India Company? In this short video DalrympleWill introduces his new book TheAnarchy The Relentless Rise of the East India Company, out now. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000... Description: William Dalrymple's new book tells the story of how the East India Company transformed itself from a small trading company into a powerful colonial force that used its financial prowess and military might to subdue India. What emerges is a cautionary tale about global corporate power. 1 - humble beginnings lead to bold enterprise as circumstances conspire against India's emperors. The reader is Alistair McGowan William Dalrymple is an acclaimed historian and has won numerous awards including, the Hemingway Prize, the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, the Asia House Award for Asian Literature. He lives on a farm near Delhi. Alistair McGowan is a multi-talented performer and writer. He is an impressionist, stand-up comic, and actor, a pianist and a writer of sketches, stage and radio plays. Adapted by William Dalrymple

  12. 4 out of 5

    Zeb Kantrowitz

    How did a mercantile proposition turn into the largest private army in the world, that was able to conquer practically all of India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh). Originally given the Royal English Charter in 1600, to be the exclusive English rights to trade with South India, the East India Company (EIC, the Company) began with one ship and cargo until in the end they controlled directly or indirectly an area with a population of over 250 million. Beginning in the middle 1700s, How did a mercantile proposition turn into the largest private army in the world, that was able to conquer practically all of India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh). Originally given the Royal English Charter in 1600, to be the exclusive English rights to trade with South India, the East India Company (EIC, the Company) began with one ship and cargo until in the end they controlled directly or indirectly an area with a population of over 250 million. Beginning in the middle 1700s, the EIC came into conflict with the French merchants who were also creating trading factories (warehouses) on the east coast of India, and the Portuguese on the west. They started by capturing each others ships and stealing the cargoes, until they then began to attack each others factories. This became especially violent during all of the Anglo-French Wars during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Company built armies that were made up of a few English Officers and Sepoy (Indian) Troops. They were smart enough to use soldiers from one Indian empire against the others, playing all the Rulers against each other till they were so powerful that no one in India was powerful enough to challenge them. In 1857 a large part of the Sepoy soldiers revolted against the Company. There was much damage and bloodshed before the rebellion could be put down. The English government realized that they couldn't continue to allow merchant house to control the 'jewel in the crown of english colonies'. So over the next few years they took away control and in 1874 the Company was dissolved. But using the bureaucracy created by the Company, Britain continued to rule India until 1947.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kanishka Sirdesai

    The author has taken a good content and spoiled it with all the meanderings. A book that started well but lost its way!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maudaevee

    There was a lot of good and interesting information in this book, but it was hard to get through. I think it just need to be trimmed and cleaned up a bit.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pcox

    Reads much like a textbook and you must really be interested to do more than skim. The photos are really helpful.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Elsey

    This book is ok, but it suffers a massive case of pre colonial nostalgia. The Mungal Empire was just guilty of any of the things the EIC did but the author seems to forgive that so it fails a but as a book

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karan Singh

    Quick two-word review: Effin awesome! [Slightly longer version below] An obscure trading outfit run from a London office only five windows wide comes to control vast swathes of land, people, and resources across the world. How? By what means? Under whose aegis? Governed by which legal framework? Provocative questions. Complex and emotive. As he tries to stitch together some answers in The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company, the author runs into four problems tha Quick two-word review: Effin awesome! [Slightly longer version below] An obscure trading outfit run from a London office only five windows wide comes to control vast swathes of land, people, and resources across the world. How? By what means? Under whose aegis? Governed by which legal framework? Provocative questions. Complex and emotive. As he tries to stitch together some answers in The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company, the author runs into four problems that vex anyone dealing with the past. My personal view is that William Dalrymple copes admirably well with all four of them. Only a minor quibble with a detail in the third problem. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Dalrymple’s latest offering comes from a deep well of archival riches. Ever since White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India, he has distinguished himself as a historian steeped in the primary materials of the British encounter with India. This is not, as they say, his first rodeo. Problem 1: CREDIBILITY The past is elastic; it refuses to stay neatly in the past. In addition to the physical reminders of yesterday found all over the present, the past continues to emit an emotional charge. This is especially true of a place like India at a time like right now. History has turned into a pitched battlefield of ideologies. Claims and counter-claims, each more strident than the last, threaten to sever vocal chords and rupture ear drums (if not worse). Solution: focus on the evidence Dalrymple excels at doing history by avoiding histrionics. Love his uncompromising take on the primacy of evidence. The period in question must be allowed to speak for itself. Anything produced by human hand at the time is fit for study: deeds of sale, ledgers, bills of lading, manifests, letters, titles, dispatches, paintings, poems, jewels, crops, fabric, weapons, buildings . . . the list is endless. In contemporary parlance, we would call this data-driven history. If it’s not rooted in textual, material, or sensory outputs authentically traceable to the period, it isn’t credible. Of course it’s well-nigh impossible for a single author to contend with the sheer volume of data. A quick glance at the Acknowledgments section reveals how much collective effort goes into producing a work such as this. Problem 2: INCONSISTENCY “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Hartley’s memorable opening line in The Go-Between captures exactly the challenge of memory and history. Or, in the terms we outlined in problem 1, inconsistent data. Where it exists, the historical record can be patchy, incoherent, and/or contradictory. It is also punctuated by long periods of silence. That means nothing has survived from the time that can reasonably constitute reliable primary data. Solution: intertextuality Dalrymple’s network of people (past and present) working in history and the wider social sciences allows him to bridge gaps in the data. It’s a debt he readily acknowledges in the extensive notes (>100 pages) accompanying the main text. And where nothing can be said with confidence regarding a particular point in the narrative, he declines to speculate and indulge in conspiracy theories. Rigour above all else. It makes for a very chaste reading experience, even when the actual text is quite salacious. The story rollicks along, page after page, carried seamlessly by Dalrymple’s attention to his craft. Analysing an annual report to shareholders or a bill presented in Westminster takes a different set of skills than interpreting a courtly poem in Persian or a mural painted for Tipu Sultan. The full range of skills is on show in this book. Most impressive! Problem 3: TEDIUM Many battles, many treaties. Characters, palaces, transactions. One thing after another. The word is in the subtitle of the book itself: relentless. Combined with Dalrymple’s rigorous and chaste methodology, the epic scale of the drama unfolding before the reader’s eyes can become quite tedious. Do I dare use the b-word? Whisper it: (((boring))) Solution: multiple perspectives Fans of Kurosawa’s Rashomon will testify that a simple plot revealed from multiple vantage points is always more interesting than the single-lens static view. Dalrymple borrows this technique. Wherever possible, he selects testimonies from both English and Indian sources to illuminate the same event. This has a dazzling effect, not least because it’s the first time some of these Indian sources (Seir Mutaqherin by Syed Ghulam Hussain Khan and Ibrat nama by Fakir Khair ud-Din Ilahabadi, to name a couple) have been used to tell the story of the East India Company. And now we come to my quibble. I wish Dalrymple would expand his criteria of permissibility to include oral history. Texts are paramount – I get that – but in folk songs and simple folktales passed from generation to generation, historians might still discover much to offer depth and colour to a past that is anything but dead. Problem 4: RELEVANCE Why should we care? It's 2019 ffs, so why bother with who said/did what to whom in 1719? At best, this kind of detail might be useful in a pub quiz, or as a specialist subject on Mastermind. But outside a tight circle of historians, what application could this knowledge have for our time? Solution: wait, are you serious? Dalrymple begins this book with the Hindi word loot. Another word peppered throughout the book - Mughal - makes it into the English language as 'mogul'. With a corporate mogul currently residing in the White House, and acting every day as if all the constraints and checks on executive power don't apply to him; with companies like Amazon, Alibaba, Baidu, Facebook, Google, Tencent, and Twitter tracking us to within an inch of our lives; with state governments increasingly beholden to the 'market' and its shadowy financiers, the lessons of the past are more relevant than ever. Historians laugh best because they laugh last.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suman

    Somewhere between pages 350-400 into The Anarchy a man by the name of Sir David Ochterlony is called to facilitate communication between the Mughal emperor Shah Alam and East India Company’s Lord Lake. Sir David is fluent in Urdu and Persian and having been in India for many years, is familiar with the customs of the place. More than that. Sir David has gone native. He has numerous Indian wives and is so smitten by the country that he would rather never leave. He is also an old friend of the aut Somewhere between pages 350-400 into The Anarchy a man by the name of Sir David Ochterlony is called to facilitate communication between the Mughal emperor Shah Alam and East India Company’s Lord Lake. Sir David is fluent in Urdu and Persian and having been in India for many years, is familiar with the customs of the place. More than that. Sir David has gone native. He has numerous Indian wives and is so smitten by the country that he would rather never leave. He is also an old friend of the author. Here from an earlier book City of Djinns. But William Dalrymple isn’t writing a book like the City of Djinns. The Anarchy is a work by later Dalrymple. It is tempting to see it as a trilogy along with The Last Mughal and Return of a king, a saga that chronicles the subcontinent during the Mughal decline, in the aftermath of Aurangzeb’s death. If so The Anarchy would fit in as the first in such a trilogy. But the problem with trilogies is that they have to be summarized in a reductive way. That would be unfair here, especially since the author hasn’t chosen to call it a trilogy. So let’s look at the book standing alone by itself. The Anarchy chronicles the rise of the East India Company (the EIC in short). It’s easy to forget that EIC was in fact a company, a for-profit organization with shares bought and sold in open market. This fact needs to be squared with the more common memory of an army of red coats that gradually captured power and influence in India, and also, Britain. This book chronicles how that happened. It begins with the founding of EIC at Founder’s hall, London in 1599. The EIC was not alone in its charter. There already existed the far more successful Dutch East India Company that became a model. The EIC was formed to ensure the English didn’t lack behind. English were not yet the pre-eminent naval power they were to become. Back then, London could have been a dirty backwater when compared to the grandeur of Mughal Delhi. For the Mughals themselves, the English were at best a curiosity, perhaps in no way distinguishable. Consider this excerpt: “the company realized that if it was to trade successfully with the Mughals, it would need… a relationship with the emperor himself. It took Hawkins a year to reach Agra, which he managed to do dressed as an Afghan Nobleman. Here he was briefly entertained by the emperor with whom he conversed in Turkish before Jahangir lost interest.” Yet by the end of the book, Richard Wellesley the Governor General of EIC has defeated Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatnam, cemented his power in Bengal and after the Marathas loose Delhi is ready to be the regent to the blind Mughal Emperor Shah Alam. By then the EIC referred to itself as the “grandest society of merchants in the universe”. Their armies were larger than those of almost of any other nation and its power encircled the Globe. Telling us this story of the rise of EIC is a different Dalrymple. It has been a different Dalrymple for a few books now. Gone is the travel writer who got excited at discovering a little known anecdote: like that of Ochterlony and his Indian biwis in the City of Djinns. Now there is a seriousness of tone. His research brings astonishing detail to the narrative. This new historian Dalrymple relishes in finding new sources that present a different point of view, in establishing character long before actual action takes place. For example let’s take the story of Ghulam Qadir who is captured by Shah Alam as a boy after he defeats Qadir’s father. Shah Alam is kind to the Qadir to the extent that a vicious rumor makes rounds of the exact nature of this middle aged emperor’s relationship with a beautiful boy. Pages later Ghulam Qadir rebels at an opportune moment. A young man by now, he manages to break into the royal palace. Then finding Shah Alam sitting on his throne Ghulam Qadir walks up, sits next to the throne, takes a drag from the hookah of the emperor and blows smoke in the old man’s face. Then begins a reign of terror unlike any Delhi had ever witnessed. Between both ends of this Qadir story Dalrymple weaves a rich tapestry of narrative, folklore, intrigue and manages to provide us a glimpse at the disturbed soul that was Ghulam Qadir. And this is where he is different from your fact based historian. Thankfully Dalrymple still remains a powerful storyteller. My only problem with the book is Dalrymple’s not so subtle insistence on comparing EIC with a modern multinational. Don’t get me wrong, the comparison in no way interrupts the narrative with needless pontification, but by the last chapter where he lays down the case of EIC’s bailout and compares it to 2008’s “too big to fail” banking industry the point seems stretched. May be it’s not even that. It is this feeling that having made such a comparison, Dalrymple being a historian, cannot dwell on the precise details of the modern equivalent that could enlighten a serious reader. Instead this feels likes a little sidebar, more polemical and hence asking for our indulgence. But The Anarchy is an important book. It is important to those of us who wait a few handful years between the author’s successive books and it is important to the rest too. Because in a world filling up with simplistic views and easy conclusions from history this is a book that tries very hard to be fair and thorough in its narrative. Dalrymple, while taking us on a journey of over 200 years does not compromise on complexity. In fact I suspect he relishes complexity as something that helps him engage the reader in a world that is changing despite itself. I wondered why the book was called The Anarchy – what does that represent? Does it represent the anarchy that was India at the time, the anarchy that was EIC or the anarchy of the narrative: a story that demands to take its own route? Perhaps all three and that is the book’s nicest gift.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rick Sam

    The Thesis of this book is similar to one which I read, “The Corporation That Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational” by Nick Robins. I wasn’t surprised, the Board of Directors of English East India company wanted to rake profits in England. As a result, EIC went on-board into India. They saw an opportunity to expand their treasure chest and wield political influence. Growing up in India, I was fed the usual Indian narrative in High School. I can The Thesis of this book is similar to one which I read, “The Corporation That Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational” by Nick Robins. I wasn’t surprised, the Board of Directors of English East India company wanted to rake profits in England. As a result, EIC went on-board into India. They saw an opportunity to expand their treasure chest and wield political influence. Growing up in India, I was fed the usual Indian narrative in High School. I can barely recall if teachers recommended reading list from both West and Indian Scholars. The usual Indian narrative is popularized by Shashi Tharoor. I think, When I left India — I realized about the incomplete Indian narrative. There were many Indians involved alongside with the EIC. Dalrymple’s contributing to the Indian side of the story is that Indians were alongside with EIC. Overall an Impressive book. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in India. Dalrymple’s writing is vivid and clear. Someday, I’ll write about Tamil Nadu, India. Deus Vult, Gottfried

  20. 4 out of 5

    GARRY NIXON

    From the first paragraph of the Introduction, we're left in no doubt: this is all about loot, which is, I now know, a Hindi word. The East India Company was a legal gangster enterprise dreamt up by men, many of whom we would regard as pirates, during the reign of Elizabeth I. It's a page turner, which is quite something for a work which also appears to have impeccable scholarship. Few people come out of it well: the Indian aristocracy are greedy and foolish, the British are greedier and unscrupulous. From the first paragraph of the Introduction, we're left in no doubt: this is all about loot, which is, I now know, a Hindi word. The East India Company was a legal gangster enterprise dreamt up by men, many of whom we would regard as pirates, during the reign of Elizabeth I. It's a page turner, which is quite something for a work which also appears to have impeccable scholarship. Few people come out of it well: the Indian aristocracy are greedy and foolish, the British are greedier and unscrupulous. The very few exceptions to downright nastiness are Shah Alam and Warren Hastings. It's also a really good overview of an excellent example of the relationship between capitalism and imperialism. It sparked my curiosity about the social history involved, which Dalrymple does not really go into. For example, the Company sepoys: by the turn of the 19th Century, they were well paid. What was their story? What was their family background? Did they form, in effect, an heriditary caste? I'd love to read really good social history of the Company and Indian Army and its personnel. When I get time I'll go through his sources.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mike Glaser

    Very interesting history of the East India Company and their rise in the Indian subcontinent. A number of lessons that are still pertinent today and another reminder of how Great Britain stumbled onto their empire.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Khayam Arif

    Very entertaining book. William Dalrymple never disappoints

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed Khateeb Kamran

    Outstanding book. The author has done a tremendous job of showing how it was more due to the personal and moral failings of the nawabs and the aristocracy that led to their decline. It was not due to lack of technology but it was the Indians' tyranny, decadence, backstabbing, laziness and arrogance that led to their conquest by the British. Looking forward to reading Seir Mutaqherin by Syed Ghulam Hussain Khan and Ibrat nama by Fakir Khair ud-Din Ilahabadi on which this book is mainly Outstanding book. The author has done a tremendous job of showing how it was more due to the personal and moral failings of the nawabs and the aristocracy that led to their decline. It was not due to lack of technology but it was the Indians' tyranny, decadence, backstabbing, laziness and arrogance that led to their conquest by the British. Looking forward to reading Seir Mutaqherin by Syed Ghulam Hussain Khan and Ibrat nama by Fakir Khair ud-Din Ilahabadi on which this book is mainly based on.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Risto J

    Dear William, may your moustaches never grow grey Sir! What a splendid book. Pacey narrative, a lot of historical details compiled from all sides.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Farrukh Pitafi

    One of the best books I have read this season.

  26. 4 out of 5

    S Ashok

    Anarchy – The rise of the East India Company The rule of British in India was started by a company based out of London the East India Company. Surprisingly, it was not the British government that conquered the Indian subcontinent but a small company based out of London. This is surprising in many ways because typically conquests have been done by rival powers from different parts of the world. Like the Mongols, the Mughals, etc but the East India Company was a group of merchants who w Anarchy – The rise of the East India Company The rule of British in India was started by a company based out of London the East India Company. Surprisingly, it was not the British government that conquered the Indian subcontinent but a small company based out of London. This is surprising in many ways because typically conquests have been done by rival powers from different parts of the world. Like the Mongols, the Mughals, etc but the East India Company was a group of merchants who wanted to have a trading post in India. They wanted to mimic the Dutch and others who had set up companies in Asia and were quite profitable in the trade of spices, tea, etc. This way the East India Company started trading with very little investment. It got a monopoly and it was nothing spectacular in its dealings in the initial years. India during that time was ruled by the Mughals and the various Nawabs as feudal vessels under the Mughals. The country was one of the largest economies of the world, the royal power of the Mughals was so significant and they were not so bothered about the Britishers trading in the outpost of marshy Calcutta and Madras. In two hundred years the East India Company managed to become a military power conquered India and became so powerful even more powerful than the British government. William Dalrymple’s recent book Anarchy is a book on this extraordinary series of events that culminated in the rise of the East India Company in the Indian subcontinent. The book is brilliant, it is written with a gripping narrative and the story moves effortlessly to multiple places and personalities and keeps us engaged throughout. It draws from a lot of sources to give a clear picture of what were the changes that were happening in India and in the world which resulted in the rise of East India company. It is also full of extraordinary characters, like ambitious Britishers like Robert Clive who wanted to prove themselves. The Mughal King Shah Alam who is suave and artistic but incapable of defending the vast empire, the various Nawab who rule smaller states like Alveridi Khan, his cruel grandson Siraj ud-Daula who was defeated by Robert Clive in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and so on. There are multiple factors which seem to have contributed to the rise of the East India Company. Weakening of Mughal Rule : The Mughal rule seems to have weakened due to various factors but the fundamental thing I have observed is in any dynasty, the military ambition and strength of rulers diminish over a time, the vigor and might of say Babar and Akbar is not shared by subsequent rulers, they are more artistic and culturally inclined and are no so interested in conquest. Hence the empire when it is as large as the Mughals, the subordinate feudal vessels tend to start re ascertain their power. For instance, Shah Alam is no match to the ruthlessness of the company officials like Robert Clive. Economic Nature of the East India Company: The East India Company had a crucial difference over the other powers, it represented the capitalistic world order while the other powers were feudal. This advantage is fundamental in my opinion, feudal kings wanted to expand their empires as a mark of their prestige, economic calculation of profit and loss was not central to them. Driven by its share prices, the company was always cognizant of the economic angle in any conflict it is getting interesting. It found out early through its conflict with Siraj ud-Daula that it can benefit immensely by getting economic benefits as direct cash or through the right to collect taxes. It is so strange that the East India Company got the right to collect taxes from the provinces of Bengal. Traditionally governments collected taxes because they provide services to people, even a feudal king in this sense is responsible to the people by investing money in public works like digging canal, supporting artists and artisans in the court, supporting traditional religious festivals, etc. The East India company collected humongous taxes and just shipped it back to Britain as profits to the East India company. This is atrocious if you look at it with any common sense. The tax when invested creates value and wealth in any economy this is fundamental to any country to progress, this is how progress and development happens. The company silently shipped so much of wealth to Britain back to its shareholders. Post the British took over Bengal was affected by a massive famine in which millions of people died, the East India company barring few efforts didn’t do anything to the relief of people. In that sense they are incomparable to any of the earlier invaders into India, probably they can only be compared to Nader Shah who looted Delhi and considerably weakened Delhi. Even he looted once, the East Indian company’s loot was so systemic and established as a process through its cruel taxation regime. Even when the famine was acute in Bengal the amount of taxes collected and shipped to Britain was maintained at such high levels as normal years. Earlier rulers who invaded India like the Mughals integrated themselves into the nation, they saw themselves as belonging to this country. They contributed to the economic development, they patronized art and so on. In every sense what the East India Company did can only be considered as loot. Indian rulers didn’t seem to understand the nature of the company they thought them to be a feudal king and expected similar norms as from a respectable king. Some of the kings thought Robert Clive to be a king or from royal aristocracy but they were employees employed by a ruthless company. Hence the company didn’t have any succession battles and was able to replace with talented men to run the East India company. Major problem with Indian powers like the Maratha, Tipu’s Mysore Kingdom is they had brutal fights within themselves owing to succession issues. They also were economically unreliable, many time waste precious resources in useless wars and battles. The East India Company on the contrary to the Indian powers were able to raise money easily due to huge revenues they are gaining from Bengal. This money funded further expansion over the whole of India. The lack of unity among the Indian powers also prevented them from putting a combined front against the British. The company were systematically able to eliminate the powers through a series of wars against the Tipu sultan first and then followed by the war against the Marathas. The company was able to effectively isolate these powers and were win using superior economic power. All this and many other fortuitous circumstances resulted in the rise of East India Company as a predominant power in India at the end of the 18th century. The Mughals were reduced to a symbolic ruler but the real power was wresting with the company which they held until 1857 when post the first war of independence the British government took over. As I finished the book I felt like living through those years as a reader and in that regard, Dalrymple has succeeded in writing an interesting story.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jackson

    The Anarchy recounts South Asia’s history during the second half of the 18th century, a violent 50 years in which the sub-continent transitioned from Mughal to Company rule. More than anything else, the story is a tragedy, but Dalrymple also utilizes the narrative to provide a stern warning to modern readers living in a highly corporatized global society. From his conclusion, “...Our world is far from post-imperial, and quite probably never will be. Instead Empire is transforming itself into for The Anarchy recounts South Asia’s history during the second half of the 18th century, a violent 50 years in which the sub-continent transitioned from Mughal to Company rule. More than anything else, the story is a tragedy, but Dalrymple also utilizes the narrative to provide a stern warning to modern readers living in a highly corporatized global society. From his conclusion, “...Our world is far from post-imperial, and quite probably never will be. Instead Empire is transforming itself into forms of global power that use campaign contributions and commercial lobbying, multinational finance systems and global markets, corporate influence and the predictive data harvesting of the new surveillance-capitalism rather than - or sometimes alongside - overt military conquest, occupation or direct economic domination to effect its ends. Four hundred and twenty years after it’s founding, the story of the East India Company has never been more current.” The many excesses of the East India Company, and the failure of the British parliament to adequately regulate and moderate the Company, are indeed prescient warnings. However, I found The Anarchy to serve equally well as a more personal reminder; that is a reminder of the true horror of colonialism. To be brief, I spent much of my childhood in Kenya, and I currently live and work in India. Both nations are former British colonies. Given this background, I’ve always had a vague understanding that the colonial eras for these nations - and most other colonized nations - were generally brutal and detrimental, and yet I still often find myself tempted to put more weight on the “silver-linings” of foreign imperial rule (like transportation networks, industrialized economies, education and healthcare, etc.). However the stark reality of the horribly extractive and exploitative Company policies presented by Dalrymple served as a rebuke to my own thinking and framing. In more direct words, this book functions as apt evidence for the anti-axiom(1), “The end does not justify the means.” Pivoting back to Dalrymple’s critique of modern and historic corporate imperialism, this anti-axiom can be a useful tool in our current task of evaluating the merits of any current corporation or the governing system that sits over that corporation. The NYU Stern professor Scott Galloway is well know for his powerful polemics against the excesses of the largest corporations in the United States. Yet he frequently hedges his critiques by praising capitalism and offering a justification of the system by pointing towards the vast wealth it has created for millions of Americans over the previous century(2). I mention Galloway not to attack him but because his comments serve as a good example of a common refrain in the United States today(3). Indeed Galloway and others in his stream are correct, there are many massive benefits to the freedom of American markets and it is not wrong to celebrate those. However, as The Anarchy shows the East India Company similarly generated vast amounts of wealth for many people and, in the long run, provided a degree of stability to many South Asians that had not existed previously. But do those good ends justify the means by which the Company reached them? Or how about greater digital interconnectedness today. Is it a justification for the proliferation of false news, the advent of cyber bullying, the manipulation of democratic elections, and the mass-incitement to violence? Does producing many hundreds of beneficial medical products justify the opioid crisis? Or are the many thousands of people who have quit smoking through e-cigarettes a justification for marketing addictive products to minors? Really the broader question is this: Is the vast wealth generated by the current economic system a justification for the allowances given to corporations(4)? I am no economist, so I won’t try to make any definitive claims to the value of the current corporate regulatory system, much less propose a separate system. However I can apply that simple anti-axiom and firmly say that the many exciting benefits of the current system aught not be used to justify its current state, at least not while the means of those benefits are so often extractive and exploitative. (1) I use here the term “anti-“ axiom because the original phrase is in fact the opposite: “The end justifies the means.” Most likely derived from a passage in Machiavelli’s The Prince. To be clear I am being a bit hyperbolic in my argumentation; I do believe there are instances in which the end does truly justify the means by which it is attained. However those instances are surely a rarity. (2) I apologize for not providing any direct quotes or references here; my internet is quite slow at the moment so I’m struggling to find the exact comments that are in my mind. Really I do respect Galloway quite a lot; he is quite an intelligent thinker and also has quite the sense of humour. I highly recommend to you “Pivot,” the weekly podcast that Galloway co-hosts with Kara Swisher. (3) I am speaking here largely into the context of the American markets and the United States’ regulatory system because A) it is the context I am most familiar with, and B) it is the context I expect most other users of GoodReads to be familiar with. (4) I am aware that by asking these questions of justifying ends by their means, I am walking straight past an equally important set of questions. That is, do the intentions justify the ends? Given that the topic of this conversation is corporate imperialism, the intentions of most (for-profit) corporations seem implicit, and therefore I felt justified in ignoring that question. (5) Have I made enough caveats and asides?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nathik

    The Anarchy is a popular history book on the East Indian Company(EIC) in 18th Century India. Dalrymple regale us the rise of the EIC from a Tudor privateering operation full of ex-Caribbean privates to an imperial power. Considering that the British were pretty late to the spice trade in India compared to the Portuguese, Dutch, and the French, their raise as an imperial power is extraordinary. Rise of of the first Multinational Corporation: East Indian Company(EIC) basicall The Anarchy is a popular history book on the East Indian Company(EIC) in 18th Century India. Dalrymple regale us the rise of the EIC from a Tudor privateering operation full of ex-Caribbean privates to an imperial power. Considering that the British were pretty late to the spice trade in India compared to the Portuguese, Dutch, and the French, their raise as an imperial power is extraordinary. Rise of of the first Multinational Corporation: East Indian Company(EIC) basically invented corporate lobbying, insider training and first corporate bail out, and all the other things we loathe about modern corporation. EIC developed a symbiotic relationship with the British Parliamentarians. Company men like Clive used the looted money from India to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats. The Parliament backed the Company with state power because many MPs were shareholders of EIC and any action against the company will affect their personal wealth. Silk, Spices and Sepoy: Thanks to the dwindling military and financial power of the Mughals, a huge military labor market sprang up all across India. Dalrymple describes this as one of the most thriving free markets of fighting men anywhere in the world- all up for sale to the highest bidder. Warfare become a business enterprise and substantial section of peasants spent part of their time year as mercenaries. EIC were better off financially and were able to pay the sepoys the promised wage on time than many local rulers. EIC were using as much as 80% Indian sepoyts in many of their battles. The British very really lucky: Although popular theories propose that the success of the EIC can be attributed to the fragmenting to Mughal India into tiny competing states; the military tech of the Europeans and innovation of banking, taxing and administration of the Anglo-saxons, one of the recurring themes that I found is how lucky in the may of the battles. Yes, the above theories are probably true and East India Company troop were more disciplined than their Indian rivals; but its incredible how consistently lucky the British were. Break the Rules: Warfare in India were actually done in gentlemanly manner. The Mughals. Marathas and other local rulers pursued negotiation, bribery and paying tribute. In case of actual conquest, there are rules by which they abide by. The Company men, especially Robert Clive, who committed suicide at the age of 49(Hope someone soon writes a biography on this truly appalling character), constantly breaking the rules like attacking at night and attacking at thunderstorm etc. Why we need to learn to negotiate? Mughals were completely clueless about who corporation functions or how unsavory Clive operates as an Profiteer. Ghulam Hussain Khan says a sale of jackass would have taken up more time than the time taken for the Treaty of Allahbad. Post Treaty of Allahabad, EIC used Indian tax revenue to purchase textiles and spies. Even at the time of famines EIC enforces tax collection to maintain their revenue and growing military expenditure. At the height of the famine, English merchants engaged in grain hoarding, profiteering and speculation. North vs South India? Even after Battle of Plassey, Cavalry was the dominant form of warfare in northern India and continued to fight each other despite the growing domination of the British. However the south was every quick to copy and learn the military innovations of the Europeans. Haider Ali had a modern infantry and his troops were more innovative and tactically ahead of EIC. They mastered the art of firing rockets long before the English. Nana Phadnavus, ‘the Maratha Machiavelli’, after the Treaty of Wadgaon, proposed a Triple Alliance between the Marathas, Haider and the Nizam of Hyderabad. Indian Bankers love the Company: The rise of EIC as an imperial power would not be possible with out the Indian bankers. The Indian financiers saw greater advantage in keeping the Company in power than they did supporting their own. By 1803, Indian bankers were competing with one another to back the company’s army. In the end its the Company’s ability to mobilize money have them the edge over the Marathas and Tipu Sultan. It was no longer the superior European military technology. Bengal alone was annually yeilding a steady revenue surplus of Rs 25 million at the time when Scindia struggled to net Rs 2 million. The biggest firm of the period – the houses of Lala Kashmiri Mal, Ramchand-Gopalchand Shahu and Gopaldas-Manohardas – helped the military finance of the British. The Company duly rewarded the invaluable services in 1782 by making the house of Gopaldas the government’s banker. Richard Wellesley managed raise Rs 10 million with the support of Marwari bankers of Bengal to fight the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war. Final nail in the coffin: Following the victory of the Battle of Delhi, EIC defeated the last indigenous power. Now linked Bengal, Madras and Bombay while imposing itself as Regent under the Mughals. My only complaints is that the book doesn’t drive into the financial details of the Company despite the wealth information available. A bit of financial history of the Company would have helped us understand the nature of the Company better. Overall an entertaining history book. highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Ugh, I wish Goodreads allowed for half-star ratings because this is a 4.5 if ever there was one. The Anarchy is a grand William Dalrymple history of South Asian history during the British colonial period, ala Return of a King, The Last Mughal, and White Mughals. So it is, of course, stupendously researched (especially in South Asian sources) and splendidly written. But the narrative here is also a lot bigger than those previous books, which generally centered on fairly concentrated events. By tr Ugh, I wish Goodreads allowed for half-star ratings because this is a 4.5 if ever there was one. The Anarchy is a grand William Dalrymple history of South Asian history during the British colonial period, ala Return of a King, The Last Mughal, and White Mughals. So it is, of course, stupendously researched (especially in South Asian sources) and splendidly written. But the narrative here is also a lot bigger than those previous books, which generally centered on fairly concentrated events. By tracking just the foolhardy British invasion of Afghanistan or the madcap chaos of the Great Revolt, Dalrymple can really delve into the personalities and politics. The books have an energy and focus from their smaller narrative frame. By contrast, The Anarchy spans decades in its major events and includes several generations of major political players and combatants. Some certainly do stand out, like Shah Alam, Tipu Sultan, Robert Clive, and William Hastings. But many others, including the seemingly-generational slew of psychotic Indian princes, start to blur together or become repetitive. I think Dalrymple's insights into the East India Company's particularly vicious form of capitalism are a bit curtailed by the narrative scope. The chapter on the truly awful Bengal famine of 1770 examines the EIC's cruelties quite well, but it's just one chapter. Dalrymple certainly does spend time reflecting on the bizarre nature of a trading company becoming a territorial empire, but the history of such things (the EIC was not the first) is touched on rather lightly and the actual mechanisms of EIC trade are most just described as theft (which wasn't the case at the start, at least). I dunno, I guess I was expecting something like the analysis of William Cronon or Sven Beckert. None of this is to say the book is bad or a disappointment. Far from it - highly recommended, in fact. I just have a few reservations.

  30. 5 out of 5

    dpcinh

    This is a deeply researched engrossing account of the evolution of a rapacious company from its humble origins as a group of ambitious British merchants. The book starts appropriately with this sentence, "One of the first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: loot. This word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late eighteenth century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain." It ends ominously: The East India Company remai/>The This is a deeply researched engrossing account of the evolution of a rapacious company from its humble origins as a group of ambitious British merchants. The book starts appropriately with this sentence, "One of the first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: loot. This word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late eighteenth century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain." It ends ominously: The East India Company remains today history’s most ominous warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power – and the insidious means by which the interests of shareholders can seemingly become those of the state…… Empire is transforming itself into forms of global power that use campaign contributions and commercial lobbying, multinational finance systems and global markets, corporate influence and the predictive data harvesitn of the new surveillance-capitalism rather than – or sometimes alongside – overt military conquest, occupation or direct economic domination to the effect its ends. Four hundred and twenty years after its founding, the story of the East India Company has never been more current. There appears to be a topographical error. General Lake on his way to Delhi from Kanpur, after vanquishing the Aligarh Fort, is said to have camped near Agra at Sikandra at Akbar’s Tomb and then marched to Hindan 18 miles away, only to be ambushed there. This is south-west of Aligarh, across the Yamuna river and more than 100 miles from Shahadra and marching to and from there would entail crossing the Yamuna twice. The author probably meant Sikandra that is close to present day Dadri.

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