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The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company Kindle Edition
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ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019
THE TIMES HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR
FINALIST FOR THE CUNDILL HISTORY PRIZE 2020
LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 2019
A FINANCIAL TIMES, OBSERVER, DAILY TELEGRAPH, WALL STREET JOURNAL AND TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR
'Dalrymple is a superb historian with a visceral understanding of India … A book of beauty' – Gerard DeGroot, The Times
In August 1765 the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and forced him to establish a new administration in his richest provinces. Run by English merchants who collected taxes using a ruthless private army, this new regime saw the East India Company transform itself from an international trading corporation into something much more unusual: an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business.
William Dalrymple tells the remarkable story of the East India Company as it has never been told before, unfolding a timely cautionary tale of the first global corporate power.
About the Author
“As William Dalrymple shows in his rampaging, brilliant, passionate history, The Anarchy, the East India Co. was the most advanced capitalist organization in the world . . . Mr. Dalrymple gives us every sword-slash, every scam, every groan and battle cry. He has no rival as a narrative historian of the British in India. The Anarchy is not simply a gripping tale of bloodshed and deceit, of unimaginable opulence and intolerable starvation. It is shot through with an unappeasable moral passion.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Superb. . . a vivid and richly detailed story . . . the greatest virtue of this disturbingly enjoyable book is perhaps less the questions it answers than the new ones it provokes about where corporations fit into the world, both then and now. . . Dalrymple's book [is] worth reading by everyone.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“A great story told in fabulous detail with interesting, if at times utterly rapacious or incompetent, characters populating it.” ―NPR
“Gripping . . . Drawing richly from sources in multiple languages, The Anarchy is gorgeously adorned with luminous images representing a range of perspectives . . . Delightful passages abound, including of the duel between Warren Hastings and Philip Francis, Shah Alam as 'the sightless ruler of a largely illusory empire,' and action-packed scenes of battle . . . Dalrymple has taken us to the limit of what page-turning history can be and do.” ―Los Angeles Review of Books
“An energetic pageturner that marches from the counting house on to the battlefield, exploding patriotic myths along the way … Dalrymple's spirited, detailed telling will be reason enough for many readers to devour The Anarchy. But his more novel and arguably greater achievement lies in the way he places the company's rise in the turbulent political landscape of late Mughal India.” ―The Guardian
“How timely [The Anarchy] feels, how surprisingly of the moment … It serves as a reminder that early capitalism was just as perverse, predatory, and single-minded in its pursuit of profit as its much-derided late-model equivalent.” ―The Daily Beast
“William Dalrymple, the most versatile chronicler of India past and present, distilled another complex yet highly topical history into The Anarchy, a bloodcurdling account of the East India Co.'s ascent to imperial dominance, full of implications for corporate behavior today.” ―Maya Jasanoff
“A well- known historian both in his native Britain and his adoptive India . . . Dalrymple has influenced the scholarly as well as the popular understanding of South Asian history through his use of both European and Indian sources, thus uniting the halves of a previously bisected whole.” ―New York Review of Books
“Splendid . . . Dalrymple's book is an excellent example of popular history-engaging, readable, and informative.” ―National Review
“William Dalrymple's The Anarchy makes sense of the E.I.C. and the political and economic conditions that enabled its curious ascent. . . [Dalrymple] navigates the teeming current of events smoothly, here gliding forward, there slowing to study the view.” ―Airmail
“[The Anarchy] compelled my admiration . . . In William Dalrymple's deft hands we have an epic tale. It's very strong stuff.” ―Paul Kennedy
“Mr. Dalrymple sails through this story in fine style. . . . The reader will find plenty that echoes in modern India.” ―The Economist
“Dalrymple has been at the forefront of the new wave of popular history, consistently producing work that engages with a wider audience through writerly craft, an emphasis on characters and their agency, evocative description of place and time, and the inclusion of long-neglected perspectives. [The Anarchy]'s real achievement is to take readers to an important and neglected period of British and south Asian history, and to make their trip there not just informative but colorful.” ―The Observer
“The author is a marvelous storyteller. By quoting extensively from the company's own voluminous records, private letters, and diaries, Persian-language sources, eyewitness accounts penned by an insightful local historian, and other reports, Dalrymple creates a 'You Are There' environment for the reader that makes the book hard to put down.” ―Washington Independent Review of Books, Favorite Books of 2019
“Dalrymple recounts the remarkable history of the East India Company from its founding in 1599 to 1803 when it commanded an army twice the size of the British Army and ruled over the Indian subcontinent. . . . It's a hell of a story.” ―Marginal Revolution
“[An] expert account of the rise of the first great multinational corporation.” ―Kirkus Reviews
- ASIN : B07VPR8LS1
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing; 1st edition (10 September 2019)
- Language : English
- File size : 104426 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 577 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #11,215 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- #37 in Colonialism & Imperialism History
- #55 in Economics (Kindle Store)
- #125 in Politics & Government eBooks
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About the author
Reviewed in India on 31 May 2022
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William Dalrymple sets out to write this compelling story with a huge cast of characters from Siraj-ud-daula to Lord Wellesley and brings to us the complete theatre of what happened in those years.
Blessed to have this historian-author among us!
History as it should be without taking any sides and impartisan.
Good learning of colonial history.
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.
The Anarchy follows a long line of illustrious books by Historian and travel writer William Dalrymple. I fell in love with Non Fiction thanks to WD and his seminal works White Mughals and The Last Mughal. Then took to reading nearly everything he has written, the last one being the story of The Kohinoor.
Don't let the size of The Anarchy intimidate you, thick as it is because nearly one fourth of the book is citations and references. After all the Book has taken seven years to research and put together.
Dalrymple is very clear as to the purpose of the Book: "This Book does not aim to provide a complete history of the East India Company, still less an economic analysis of its business operations.
Instead it is an attempt to answer the question of how a single business operation, based in one London office complex, managed to replace the mighty Mughal Empire as masters of the vast subcontinent between the years 1756 and 1803."
One by one the company engaged , warred with and defeated its principal rivals- the nawabs of Bengal and Avadh, Tipu Sultan's Mysore Sultanate and the great Maratha Confederacy.
The leading cast of characters include several noteworthy Company Officials and Governor Generals starting with Robert Clive who laid the foundations of British Rule in India uptil the two Wellesleys (Richard and Colenl Arthur). Then there is the French who lost the wars and ceded Indian territories to the EIC, the Mughals whose decline began on the death of Aurangzeb, the Nawabs of Bengal and Avadh who were betrayed by their own. The fierce Rohillas, the Sultans of Mysore who put up formidable resistance to the EIC defeating them initially and the Marathas who despite their bravery, modern army, guerilla tactics could not unite
Formed in 1599 with an objective to target the promising sectors of the trade of Asia all of which were in India, the first EIC ships and representatives to land on Indian coast in 1608 were barely able to make any headway with Mughal emperor Jehangir and in fact their ships were driven away by the Portuguese. By the time the Book ends, the blind and old Mughal emperor Shah Alam is the puppet Emperor subservient to British EIC's rule who now have almost the entire Indian peninsula under their control.
The EIC grew in riches and revenues to become the largest corporation of its time guzzling vastly rich and prosperous provinces like Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Madras but also very nearly bankrupted itself, running up huge debts causing the Crown to takeover fully much later.
In the Epilogue Dalrymple writes eloquently of why the story of the East India Company and the way corporations subvert State power for monopoly and immense profits is relevant even today.
The book reads like a racy thriller with a fast paced narrative and details of many of the wars, military tactics, weaponry used by all sides in battles. Several historical translated works have been referred and they provide a rich insightful glimpse into both the thinking of East India officials and Governors stationed in India and corrspondence of the various Indian rulers.
All in all, a brilliant read , one that is sure to keep you awake late into the night
Top reviews from other countries
The book is a chronology of the Mughals and the how the British gained India, the heavy-handed, brutal antics of the East India Company and its British officers. He singles out Lord Robert Clive. He attacks him in a personal, vindictive way, which not only smacks of amateurism but reads as though he's trying to appease a little gang somewhere. It made me focus on it. He makes him the villain of the piece. Yet from Clive's correspondence, (not quoted in this book), we read that this same man, upon purchasing of land in Wales and on the Welsh borders, pored over the maps to ask which tenant farmed what type of land and, where they were farming marginal hill land, reduced their rent to a 'homage rent,' peppercorn, which is not consistent with the bigoted picture Mr. Dalrymple paints. He's equally rude about the Powis family, but I notice, but didn't have the grace to visit any of them during his research, as Bence Jones had in his book Clive of India, who went to see the Earl of Plymouth and gathered a lot of personal information thereby. Obviously Mr Dalrymple considers himself above common courtesy.
Later in the book, he accuses Henrietta Clive who went to India to join her husband Edward, Governor of Madras, of carrying off jewels looted from Tipu Sultan's palace after his defeat by Richard Wellesley in 1799 (p 353). She paid for them. Had she not bought them where would they be now? Not in an Indian museum for certain. They'd have been lost. Today they form part of a collection of the National Trust in Powys Castle. It's reminiscent of the Elgin Marbles: had Elgin not recovered these, where would they have been now? In Greek hands? Or more likely, become target practice, smashed up and turned into foundation rubble for a block of flats. Had Robert Clive, Lord Robert Clive's great-grandson, not gone as watercolour artist to record the excavations at of the Assyrian reliefs in Nimroud and imported to England The Assyrian King Tukul-apil-esharra III (Tiglath-pileser III) bas relief, (which now hangs in the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum), where would that be now? Robert Clive painted the lamassu - the monolithic stone sculptures of human headed winged bulls - which Layard shipped to England, which were exhibited in a the British Museum this year. The ones that remained ISIS blew up and defaced, whose shattered remains vividly demonstrate. Perhaps it might have been a little less spiteful to thank Henrietta Clive for saving these treasures. And Lady Clive, Lord Robert Clive's wife, Margaret Maskelyne - whose character he attempts to assassinate by first of all attempting to demonise her brother, Dr. Nevil Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal, whom Dava Sobel turned into the blockhead of her book Longitude, then secondly by telling us of a report from The Salisbury Journal that her 'pet ferret had a diamond necklace £2,500' (p 140). It was a joke Mr Dalrymple, a satirical joke. She didn't really have a pet ferret with a diamond necklace, you see. To try to pass that one off as fact is a bit cheap. And another, if a beggar asked charity of Clive, he reputedly responded: 'Friend, I have no small brilliants about me,' is another joke, Mr Dalrymple: a skit. It's depressing to encounter an historian so unfamiliar with 18th Century satire and humour as to miss it again and again. It might explain why his own book is so shorn of it. Usually I look forward to my bed time read but not this one. I slogged on to encounter yet more dubiously executed insults of Clive.
We are told that after Plassey Clive 'wore six or seven bracelets, every one of a different species of gem; and he also had hanging from his neck, over his breast, three or four chaplets of pearls, every one of inestimable value...He at the same time amused himself with listening to the songs and looking at the dances of a number of singers, who he carried around with him wherever he went on elephants.' Pull the other one - it's way out of character. Moreover, given that Mr Dalrymple assures us how much Clive hated India and the Indians it seems pretty unlikely that he would go around dressed or behaving like one. As a source he quotes Ghulam Hussan Khan, whoever he is, it reads to me that Ghulam Hussan Khan cracked another satirical joke, another Mr Dalrymple missed.
On page 263, he delivers another twist of spite where Shah Alam writes a letter to his fellow monarch George III in England, sending along a nazr (ceremonial gift) of rare jewels worth Rs100,000 (£1M today we are advised). Neither letters nor gift reached their destination. The inference being Clive stole them.
Ships sunk, Mr Dalrymple. Cargoes never reached England. Many fortunes were lost at sea. Including gifts from potentates, one to another. Check your shipping and you'll find out.
This book is a slog. There are no insightful little cameos of what it must have been like to have been a sepoy, or gunner or mahoot in the Indian army, or in the EIC army for that matter, no insight into the daily fare. For me, Dalrymple falls into the category of the dusty academic who manages to cram in every historical detail while missing the human story. It makes for heavy going: the book is thick, it's hard to hold in bed at night, the only place to read it is on a desk or table, I'd advise anyone thinking of buying it to get the Kindle version at you'll be spared the struggle.
The best line in the book comes right at the end when Shah Alam dies, which tells us that he was the last of the Timurid line, beginning with the lame and ending with the blind - but even they're not his words. They come from a quote by William Fraser, Ochterlony's deputy. p 387. Shah Alam had awarded the Diwani with Clive and his end was as a 'chessboard' king, with a pension paid by the EIC under the protection of Richard Wellesley, who 'conquered more of India than Napoleon did of Europe', become power-mad and turned into a something of a despot himself before being recalled to England for his excesses. His brother Arthur, later the Duke of Wellington, returned from India a very wealthy man as well. Do we hear any criticism of these? How they came by their loot?
The East India Company was a rotten business, and as he fairly states, an example of irresponsible corporate greed at its very worst but then so had been the South Sea Company, which very nearly brought down the entire British economy in the 1720s. Commerce, it would appear, does not learn.
All told, I found the book turgid and prejudiced. I'll certainly not pick it up again nor recommend it.
Irritated by the constant asterisked conversions of 1600’s pounds to ‘today’s’ money (as if ‘today’ was somehow a fixed time point) but more seriously because the conversion has been made at a fixed factor of 105 which is misleading and taken to ridiculous exactitude. Thus on page 12 we are solemnly advised that £68,373 in 1600 is worth £7,179,165 ‘today’. Internet references suggest a factor range between 200 and 75,000 when comparing 1600 to 2019. At a factor of 105 EIC Directors are not much more recompensed than some FTSE CEO’s (think Persimmon), but in terms of manned militia at their disposal or country estates that could be bought the factor must be much higher.
It is important to note that this book is not, nor is intended to be, a comprehensive history of the East India Company (read "The Honourable Company" by Keay). Rather it is a detailed account of how the EIC exploited the chaos surrounding the decline of the Mughal Empire to achieve dominance over Bengal and ultimately over the whole of India. The period covered is, roughly, from 1755-1803. This is the time of "The Anarchy" which gives the book its title.
As Dalrymple shows the key to the EIC's success was the superiority of its military forces, which became, literally, the best that money could buy on the subcontinent. The EIC's strength was its single-minded focus on profit for its shareholders and, of course, for its officers. This meant EIC armies were available to support whichever of the warring local rulers would best advance the Company's own financial and strategic interests. Whatever short term advantage rulers gained in defeating their immediate enemies rapidly evaporated, as the economic and fund-raising power they had inevitably signed over to EIC in return for its military support enabled the Company to systematically strip local assets and export Indian wealth back to England. Local rulers became mere marginalised figureheads. EIC control over the Indian states, therefore, was achieved through an exercise of involuntary privatisation. Nevertheless despite its massive wealth, the EIC itself rested on fragile financial foundations and within years of achieving power over Bengal it became the first "too big to fail" company requiring a massive bailout from the British government. Parliament got the right to appoint a Governor General and ultimately by 1803 the British state was the effective ruler of India.
Dalrymple gives readers a very detailed account featuring a huge cast of personalities - schemers, self-believers, and occasionally, the principled. He convincingly demonstrates how the colonial takeover of India was not achieved by the exercise of state power but rather by corporate strategy backed up by military force.
The book describes numerous battles, massacres and atrocities. At some points, I found it difficult to keep track of all that was going on given the fast moving, necessarily complicated, narrative. I would have found a chronology and more detailed maps helpful.
It is a real strength of the book that Dalrymple draws on a vast body of contemporary sources from archives in Britain and India. He assembles this wide ranging evidence to support his conclusions. This is a deep work of history which will be studied and discussed for years to come. Dalrymple raises powerful questions about power and colonialism that resonate today - 220 years after the events covered by his book.