read online Best The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India CompanyAuthor William Dalrymple –

THE TOP SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLERLONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON FICTION A FINANCIAL TIMES,OBSERVER, DAILY TELEGRAPH AND TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR Dalrymple Is A Superb Historian With A Visceral Understanding Of India A Book Of Beauty Gerard DeGroot, The TimesIn August The East India Company Defeated The Young Mughal Emperor And Forced Him To Establish In His Richest Provinces A New Administration Run By English Merchants Who Collected Taxes Through Means Of A Ruthless Private Army What We Would Now Call An Act Of Involuntary PrivatisationThe East India Company S Founding Charter Authorised It To Wage War And It Had Always Used Violence To Gain Its Ends But 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 Unusual An Aggressive Colonial Power In The Guise Of A Multinational Business In Less Than Four Decades It Had Trained Up A Security Force Of Around , Men Twice The Size Of The British Army And Had Subdued An Entire Subcontinent, Conquering First Bengal And Finally, In , The Mughal Capital Of Delhi Itself The Company S Reach Stretched 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 In One Small Office, Five Windows Wide, And Answerable Only To Its Distant 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

4 thoughts on “The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company

  1. says:

    In his characteristically vivid style, William Dalrymple describes the wholesale loot of the wealth of the Mughal Empire of India by a handful of directors sitting in a nondescript London building The amount of wealth to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in today s amounts that the East India Company pilfered through deceit, shrewd military support of warring local factions and downright pilfering was staggering, and so was the complete political takeover of India by the Company today s giant corporations are downright tame compared to it.At the center of the Company s early activities was Robert Clive, a greedy Company officer who enriched himself beyond measure by bribing the local general to desert the Nawab lord of Bengal during his hour of need The Company was beyond the reach of any kind of regulation, and in fact it engineered the first corporate lobbying in modern history by bribing members of the British parliament and making sure they would not curb its power as well as the first corporate bailout by being too big to fail Tactics like insider trading Clive bought shares of the Company right after defeating the Nawab of Bengal and using military force to threaten businessmen and leaders were not just ignored but considered an essential part of enriching the Empire and making sure it stayed ahead of the Dutch, Portugese and French who had gotten a foothold in India and the East before the British did.Dalrymple also paints a vivid portrait of mid 18th century India and especially Bengal, giving us snapshots of everyday lives of rich and poor alike as well as gradually encroaching Company establishments the man sure knows how to write great narrative history It was largely through trading with Europeans that the sleepy villages of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta grew into great cities There was unprecedented wealth in the form of jewels, spices and animal skins, but also great poverty and inequality Dalrymple similarly has sharp character portraits of key British leaders like Clive and Warren Hastings and Indian political leaders like Shah Alam, Mahadji Scindia and Siraj Ud Daula The one complaint I have is that Dalrymple minimizes the cruel history of the Mughal Empire itself an empire that had taken over India by invasion, looting and killing while emphasizing the atrocities of others Also somewhat problematic in the same vein is his extensive quoting of single Mughal sources like Ghulam Hussain Khan that may paint a biased picture On the other hand, I generally appreciated Dalrymple s copious, constant references to first hand accounts.The East India Company came to India at the turn of the 16th century, when this Empire was at its peak and relatively tolerant and flourishing, and bided its time before waiting for a fortunate for them, unfortunate for India confluence of factors, including the weakening of Delhi and its affluence by raids by the Persian Emperor Nader Shah from the North and the Maratha Empire from the South and internal squabbling and division among local nawabs and factions The Mughal Empire was now crumbling and the time was right to strike, and making the pretense of wanting to squelch French expansion, the British struck Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and Buxar in 1764 They further weakened the two other ruling powers in India over the next thirty years the Marathas and the Mysore Empire, which were defeated and their leaders deposed or killed in a series of engagements from the late 1790s to the early 1800s This was in spite of key British defeats in the 1780s by the Marathas and the Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan which were serious enough to threaten to undo Company rule for good The tragedy was that while the Marathas especially were often equal or even better than the British in terms of manpower, strategy, and even technology they acquired a lot of cutting edge artillery technology and military strategy for the French , their lack of unity and funding and internal shifting alliances doomed them.It didn t help that India itself was divided among religious, linguistic, caste and regional lines, and many Indian local leaders foolishly enlisted the support of the Company in fighting local wars, not realizing that when it was was over they would be in the Company s pockets Self serving businessmen like the Jagat Seths also took the side of the British against their own people, and one of the most revealing aspects of Dalrymple s account is how the British started eventually winning not because of superior strategy or manpower but simply because they were better funded by a handful of leading Indian businessmen who realized that they were better at paying their debts One of the Peshwas Brahmin leader of the Maratha Empire tried to reach out to his traditional rivals to form a unified coalition when he realized the existential threat the Company poses, but by then it was too late When the dust had settled, the East India Company essentially ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent, had established a steady system of pillage shipping India s wealth over to England through taxation and downright theft and had made all regional leaders puppets At no other time has a single corporation wielded so much power and territory There are no heroes here since all sides engaged in their own brands of atrocities and greedy pillage, but there does emerge one great villain it s also interesting to contemplate India s history and its modernization in a counterfactual history where the British had not ruled the subcontinent Ultimately, the Company s excesses especially after a reign of sheer, unadulterated greed during a horrific famine in 1770 became too much even for the British crown, and bitter denunciations started emerging from the intellectual strata of British society and the crown Control of India finally passed to the crown after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.The valuable warning to take away from this story is simply that to give individual corporations unfettered power without regulation can lead to great injustice and unprecedented thievery Another important lesson for today is one which has been imparted since time immemorial, one that Edward Gibbon taught in his famous history of the Roman Empire for instance, and that is that a nation falls from within, not from outside if Indians had been united it would have been very hard, if not impossible, for the East India Company to take over Yet another big lesson here which is perhaps even relevant is that even if you are individually a relatively kind and decent man, as Clive s successor Warren Hastings who genuinely loved India was, you can still be on the wrong side of history because you work for the wrong institution Corporations are an important part of modern capitalism, but without some form of regulation it is in their very nature to enrich themselves and their shareholders at the expense of others Finally, Dalrymple leaves us with a warning for the future while the giant corporations of today may not command armies or take over entire countries, recent developments concerning surveillance and privacy breaches and corporate mercenaries for war indicate that the imperialistic spirit of the East India Company is not quite dead yet All cogent lessons, vividly communicated in this superbly written history.

  2. says:

    I am honestly a bit disappointed in this book from William Dalrymple because he is a favorite author of mine, and I felt like the history of the East India Company was the perfect subject for him to tackle Dalrymple writes vivid, moving and colorful histories of the Indian subcontinent and I thought his idea here that the East India Company represents the prototype of an unregulated corporation run amok was one loaded with implications for the present The epilogue fleshes this idea out quite nicely, and I thought the book would be a hybrid of sorts, with history, political analysis and cultural insights that Dalrymple does quite well But for the most part the book is a quite detailed military history of the region and times It just was not as good as I expected from this author I do recommend Dalrymple to anyone with an interest in the region and time, but I don t feel this was his best.

  3. says:

    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 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.

  4. says:

    A masterpiece Well researched book on East India Company and India Rarely comes a history book that reads like a fast paced thriller A must read for anyone interested in Indian history.