Lewis Birchon's Reviews > The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple
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The Anarchy is a vivid and extraordinarily accessible account of a decisive period in the history of the East India Company’s rise from plucky trading enterprise to bloodthirsty rapacious instrument of empire. Dalrymple draws together rich contemporary sources to follow a handful of central characters through periods of battle and famine, covering broadly the lifetime of Shah Alam.

Dalrymple’s approach produces powerful storytelling, capturing critical moments, decisions and betrayals of battles with colourful verve. The details of the battles read like medieval warfare equipped with the height of 18th century technology.

The epilogue makes clear that Dalrymple wrote The Anarchy with the 2008 financial crash in mind, the East India Company being the ur-example of a corporation too large to fail. This parallel bubbles to the surface occasionally, but the economic and moral model of the Company is sometimes lost in the flourish of battle. It’s a sobering comparison, and perhaps more relevant as the space race falls into private hands.

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Reading Progress

January 1, 2022 – Started Reading
January 1, 2022 – Shelved
January 9, 2022 – Finished Reading

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