Finalist for the Cundill History Prize
ONE OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal and NPR
"Superb … A vivid and richly detailed story … worth reading by everyone." -The New York Times Book Review
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.
Bronze Medal in the 2020 Arthur Ross Book Award
Historian Dalrymple (Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond) delivers a sweeping account of the East India Company's conquest of India in this vivid and accessible narrative. Founded in 1599 by a "motley" group of London investors, the joint stock company received a royal charter ambiguous enough to allow its future directors to "claim jurisdiction over all English subjects in Asia," Dalrymple writes. He sketches the East India Company's first 150 years before focusing on the period from 1756 to 1803, when it committed "the supreme act of corporate violence in world history" by seizing control of nearly all of the Indian subcontinent from the Mughal Empire. He traces the conquest's roots to the French and Indian War in North America, and profiles such notable figures as Robert Clive, a former accountant who recruited a private army of Indian soldiers and led them into battle against the nawab of Bengal, and Siraj ud-Daula, a Mughal ally who briefly captured Calcutta in 1757. Dalrymple nimbly chronicles both sides of the ensuing war while never losing sight of just how bizarre and problematic it was for a profit-driven company to become a colonial ruler or create an army. Readers on the lookout for warning signs about the dangers of today's megacorporations will find them in this vibrant, revisionist history.
Insightful exposition of the conventional history of the British colonization of India, with important lessons for the modern world. Extremely well researched with a wealth of details about politics and life in 18th century India. But you do need to be a bit of a history buff to get through it!