The Anarchy
From the bestselling author of Return of a King, 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.The Anarchy tells one of history's most remarkable stories: how the Mughal Empire-which dominated world trade and manufacturing and possessed almost unlimited resources-fell apart and was replaced by a multinational corporation based thousands of miles overseas, and answerable to shareholders, most of whom had never even seen India and no idea about the country whose wealth was providing their dividends. Using previously untapped sources, Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before and provides a portrait of the devastating results from the abuse of corporate power.

The Anarchy Details

TitleThe Anarchy
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 10th, 2019
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
ISBN-139781635573954
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Cultural, India, Politics, Asia

The Anarchy Review

  • David Wineberg
    January 1, 1970
    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
    more
  • Dmitri
    January 1, 1970
    William Dalrymple shows 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 life of Shakespeare.The Company was preceded by Sir Walter Raleigh a William Dalrymple shows 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 life of Shakespeare.The Company was preceded by Sir 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, rights to raise an army and control territory, all licensed by the Crown.At the time of the Company's expansion of territory 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 the 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 1765 Clive put down a rebellion of sepoy troops, and replaced the Mughal empire as tax collectors of the wealthiest lands on the subcontinent. The Company amassed a private army twice the size of Britain's. Famine and war 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.Dalrymple's unifying narrative source is the Mughal court historian Ghulam Hussain Khan's epic 'Review of Modern Times'. He also has scoured the India Office collection in London and National Archives in Delhi. As he notes in the introduction 'English and Mughal records of the period are extensive'. His great contribution may be in pulling it all together and presenting it in an entertaining and edifying manner. His talented storytelling is clearly evident.
    more
  • Justin
    January 1, 1970
    ***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 descr ***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.
    more
  • Amitava Das
    January 1, 1970
    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.
    more
  • Andrew Howdle
    January 1, 1970
    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.
    more
  • Zeb Kantrowitz
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
    more
  • Maudaevee
    January 1, 1970
    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.
  • Pcox
    January 1, 1970
    Reads much like a textbook and you must really be interested to do more than skim. The photos are really helpful.
  • GARRY NIXON
    January 1, 1970
    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 unscrupu 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.
    more
  • Bettie
    January 1, 1970
    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.
  • S Ashok
    January 1, 1970
    Anarchy – The rise of the East India CompanyThe 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 hav Anarchy – The rise of the East India CompanyThe 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.
    more
  • Nathik
    January 1, 1970
    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 lob 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.
    more
  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    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.
    more
  • dpcinh
    January 1, 1970
    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 r 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.
    more
  • Jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this. The author's love of all things India and Indian shines through and his knowledge and understanding of the period is impressive, the more so given how convoluted and byzantine the politics and intrigues in 18th century India were. But half-way through the book something seemed to happen. Perhaps Dalrymple had a space constraint as the impressive details became more concise and constrained. I, for one, would have liked to have read a lot more on the impeachment of Hastings, I really enjoyed this. The author's love of all things India and Indian shines through and his knowledge and understanding of the period is impressive, the more so given how convoluted and byzantine the politics and intrigues in 18th century India were. But half-way through the book something seemed to happen. Perhaps Dalrymple had a space constraint as the impressive details became more concise and constrained. I, for one, would have liked to have read a lot more on the impeachment of Hastings, which I felt, apart from the opening addresses by Burke and Sheridan, was glossed over.I was also intrigued by the sub-title. It would appear from reading this account that the opposite case could be made; namely that the anarchy was caused by Indian rulers with their endless machinations for power and tribute and that, if anything, the East India Company restored some sense of order.Get it in hardback if you can, for the magnificent illustrations and the lovely feel of the paper!
    more
  • Mohammed Khateeb Kamran
    January 1, 1970
    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.
    more
  • D.W. Udell
    January 1, 1970
    Look forward to reviewing this work!
  • Ismail Mayat
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating read, well researched and written.
  • Sambasivan
    January 1, 1970
    Prodigiously researched and aggressively articulated, this is bound to be become a classic on how a great empire was tamed and mated by a Corporation created for commercial reasons. Lessons galore including the warnings on unabated capitalism resulting in behemoth entities getting consolidated. Centralisation of power is never a good thing. Great history exceptionally narrated.
    more
  • William T
    January 1, 1970
    The last chapter, the epilogue, was disappointing enough to diminish the credibility of the rest of the book. I was happy I read it, and I gave it four stars, but there were some disappointments. Frankly, I would have appreciated more discussion about the EIC and less about the internal wars.
    more
Write a review