The Anarchy The Relentless Rise of the East India Company

THE TOP 5 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLERONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON FICTION 2019A FINANCIAL TIMESOBSERVER 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 TimesIn August 1765 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 muchunusual 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 200000 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 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 powerTHE TOP 5 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLERONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON FICTION 2019A FINANCIAL TIMESOBSERVER 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 TimesIn August 1765 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 muchunusual 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 200000 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 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 powerTHE TOP 5 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLERONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON FICTION 2019A FINANCIAL TIMESOBSERVER 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 TimesIn August 1765 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 muchunusual 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 200000 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 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


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

  1. says:

    The book opens with a list of characters beginning with Lord Robert Clive whom Mr Dalrymple hates It's followed by Warren Hastings whom he loves Clive he describes as a 'genuinelya ruthless unprincipled plunderer' p 311 and yet on p 312 we read of Hasting's excesses which appear to have included 'judicial murder' and yet still he loves him He'll forgive him anything and is very happy to remind us that upon impeachment Warren Hastings was cleared of all charges but is pretty quiet about Clive who was cleared of all charges that had been levelled against him long before 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 courtesyLater 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 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 £2500' 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 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 valueHe 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 Rs100000 £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 outThis 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 struggleThe 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 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 learnAll told I found the book turgid and prejudiced I'll certainly not pick it up again nor recommend it