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The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  4,243 ratings  ·  636 reviews
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 mome
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Harshwardhan Bajpai I am halfway through the book and so far I've enjoyed it. Having read the textbook version of events through academic sources, this was like watching …moreI am halfway through the book and so far I've enjoyed it. Having read the textbook version of events through academic sources, this was like watching a movie. Author writes very well.
Will try to write a review after I finish reading it. (less)
Shahbaz Ahmed Sir! please send post colonial analyses of the Anarchy

Sir! please send post colonial analyses of the Anarchy


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Start your review of The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire
"Corporations have neither bodies to be punished, nor souls to be condemned, they therefore do as they like." - British Lord Chancellor, Edward, First Baron Thurlow (1731-1806) You can't fine them either. Any financial penalty will just mean less taxes that they have to pay, and less bonuses to the shareholders. The CEO and executives will just happily carry on and award themselves even bigger salaries as and when they please.

How the British added India to their Empire started with the world's f
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
The question of how a relatively small group of Englishmen was able to subjugate the entire sprawling nation of India is a source of lasting disquiet. Like all of William Dalrymple's books, this history of the East India Company inspires both awe and melancholy. The EIC arrived in India at a moment in which the power of the Mughal Empire had already been shattered. Aurangzeb had mismanaged his realms, and Maratha and Afghan forces were rising on its peripheries. The death blow to Mughal power ho ...more
Ashish Iyer
Okay guys here is my longest review. To be honest I am not a fan of long reviews. Even if I come across any long reviews of my friends, I mostly ignore or just read 2 paragraphs. (I have huge respect for friends; it’s just me who is lazy enough to not read those long reviews). I am writing this review to justify why I am giving 2 stars to this book considering it has got 4.23/5 stars (199 ratings).

I had always been curious how the British had conquered India, with so few troops. The East India
This book was another of my 2019 Christmas presents. Although I’ve read a fair bit on the history of Europe, and to a certain extent the Americas, I’ve previously read very little of the history of Asia.

Although the book covers the early history of the EIC, it really concentrates on India from about the 1740s to 1803, when the Company took control of Delhi and of the Mughal Emperor, although by this time the Emperor was already a puppet of the Marathas. The author says that Indian sources descri
David Wineberg
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more

William Dalrymple has the most felicitous ability to turn extensive research into a riveting narrative. And unlike a historian such as, say, James Mill, who wrote his History of British India (1818) - a standard work for generations of British students - without ever once setting foot in India, Dalrymple is scrupulous in using a variety of sources, not just the Company's own archives in the National Archive of India, but also contemporary Mughal historians such as Ghulam Hussain Khan
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
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 a
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In less than fifty years, a multinational corporation had seized control of almost all of what had once been Mughal India. It had also, by this stage, created a sophisticated administration and civil service, built much of London’s docklands and come close to generating half of Britain’s trade. Its annual spending within Britain alone – around £8.5 million – equalled about a quarter of total British government annual expenditure. No wonder the Company now referred to itself as ‘the grandest s
Amitava Das
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a history of the conquest of much of India by the British East India Company. It focuses on the period between the Battle of Plassey in 1757, which established control over Bengal, until the Battle of Delhi in 1803, which gave the company effective control of much of India directly and much more through alliances and protection agreements of the various remaining kingdoms and principalities. It was this period that laid the basis for the British Raj in India, which lasted until independe ...more
Porter Broyles
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: genre-asia
I had not heard of this book until Former President Obama included it on his best books of 2019, but the subject of the East India Company was something that was of interest to me. These two factors made me want to read this.

The EIC was a major factor in how Great Britian spread its power and influence not only in India, but Japan, China, the Carribean, and even the American Colonies! When the Sons of Liberty dumped the tea into the Boston Harbor, they were protesting a tax, but the ships were p
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Very good overview on the British East India company and its exploitation of India (and also exploitation of the British political scene). The amount of power this multinational amassed is almost incomprehensible, but similarly problematic to some of the dynamics seen today: private corporations that become so powerful they end up subverting domestic politics via lobbying and basically "buying" politicians. And of course int'l the human costs in the lands they exploited as they chased power was ...more
Oleksandr Zholud
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a non-fic historical book about the rise of the East India Company (EIC). I read is as a part of monthly reading for March 2020 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

The title is misleading. While there is a lot of anarchy going on, but it is not so much the doing of the Company, but internal struggles on the sub-continent used by British. Even despite the author is critical of the Company (and rightfully so, from pillaging to corruption, it wasn’t a gathering of saints), if one looks on the p
Paul Ark
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Less a history of the East India Company, and more a history of India military history during the time of EIC’s presence in India. Overwrought with pointless detail and irrelevant quotes & passages from historical letters and text, this book is a dry narrative of the history of various warlords in India during the 18th century, with the rise and fall of the EIC as context. Very short on analysis, and the implications of corporate imperialism. Great premise, but poor result and wasted potential. ...more
Paul Dembina
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I was under the impression this book was a history of the East India Company, but it's not really that. More a history of the rise of the Company against a backdrop of the shifting loyalties and machinations of the various Indian groups already present there and which the Company exploited for their own ends
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Dalrymple's writing is so vivid, every page is full of colour. This is not an exception from the rule at all. He manages to make every page accessible to the wider public without losing credibility points from the academic interest either. This was like reading Treasure Island or a Wilbur Smith novel. Except why would you, if history is that bit more real, brutal and unforgiving?
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
3.5 stars

This is a very informative history of how the British East India Company colonized India. It begins with the formation of the company in 1599, but the crucial time period on which most of the book is spent is from about 1750 to 1803, when the British took advantage of the implosion of the Mughal Empire to take over first Bengal, then other Mughal territories, and finally other Indian kingdoms entirely, through a combination of war, financial maneuvers and diplomacy. In some ways the fac
Som Sahay
May 05, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bad history writing couched in superfluous embellishments.

Note: This is a critique on the historical accuracy and efficacy of a work that has been categorized as 'Non-Fiction'. I will not be critiquing the literary aspects here. There are some early spoilers in this review, but as it is Non-Fiction and history, that is to be expected.

I'm very disappointed in this book. I had been expecting a lot since this is a very thoroughly studied period yet finds hardly any detailed mention in the mainstrea
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
***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
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.

Description: William Dalrymple's new book tells the story of how the East India Company transformed itself from a small trading company into a powerful colonial force that used its financial prowess and military might to subdue India. What emerges is a cautionary tale about global corporate power.

Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Expected too much from this book.
Books is more on Indian empires rather than East India company as title suggested.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One question always surfaces whenever the subject of Britain’s conquest of India arises in an Indian social setting. How did the British, who came as ordinary traders, end up ruling the country for 150 years? Most Indians believe it is the persistent internecine conflicts between the kingdoms in India. It enabled foreign powers to intrude and establish themselves. Some believe that it is the scientific and technological knowledge of Europeans. It gave them the military advantage to conquer India ...more
Andrew Howdle
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Tariq Mahmood
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating narrative about formative years of the initial phase of the great British Raj in India. The EIC began its power play as soon as it realised the potential of great gains in India. But I don't think they really stepped out of their initial remit of making money strictly. What impressed me was the EIC's ability to still make deals with the local royalty even after defeating them repeatedly. This 'regard' for Indian royalty was only broken not by the EIC but the government of England o ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it liked it

Not sure if I’m talking to the acquisitive 17th century British Empire or modern America? This book, sadly, shows us that the latter learned nothing from the former in this regard.

This is a fine, well-researched account of the East India Company’s early form of corporate piracy in Asia.

Darymple gives us a thorough and thoughtful compendium of the EIC’s transition from aspiring trade partner with the East to its subjugator.

Though the narrative was more dry than I wo
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Reluctantly, I have to say that for those who haven't read any previous Dalrymple books or is steeped in Indian history, this book is confusing, unintelligible and a good sleeping pill. While one reviewer here says the book is about India between the Elizabethan and Victoria eras and yet there is so little in the book that links the narrative to those periods other than an occasional mention of a date. I'm 35% of the way through and don't know if I'll make it to the end. If I do and find somethi ...more
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
Chris McFadin
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Pedantic and long winded. Sometimes entertaining but generally not worth the effort given the attention this book is receiving.
I was hoping for a little more corporate strategy and a little less military conquest but I guess their corporate strategy was (surprise!) military conquest.
Dustless Walnut
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Almost zero analysis, extremely dry. I don't feel like I learned much of anything beyond a very long list of events and quotes from letters. Quite disappointing.

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William Dalrymple was born in Scotland and brought up on the shores of the Firth of Forth. He wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller In Xanadu when he was twenty-two. The book won the 1990 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and a Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award; it was also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize.

In 1989 Dalrymple moved to Delhi where he lived for six years

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