The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple -2019 - 520 pages
An autodidactic corner selection
December 31, 1600. The British East India company is granted a Royal Charter to engage in trade on the Indian Subcontinent. The initial investors were wealthy London business persons with experience in international trade. All would profit beyond their dreams.
The company at it apex controlled much of the Subcontinent,either directly or through puppet rulers and generated half the world’s international trade. Among the chief items of trade exported from India were cotton, silk, salt, spices, tea and opium.
Through the company, The British Empire in India developed.
Dalrymple provides us details on The Dutch and Portugese trading companies founded before The British East India Company.
In The 18th century the company, now having a standing army of 260,000, twice the size of the British Army, takes political control of much of The Subcontinent. Dalrypmple goes into a lot of background about wars between the Mughal Empire, Princely States and the army of the BEC. Both sides were cruel, killing women and children and prisoners of war. Eventually superior battle tactics, weapons, organization and the ability to play different India political entities against each other allowed the BEC to prevail. Dalrymple talks a lot about Indian princes, potentates, generals, and such. I enjoyed learning one ruler of a large princely state collected Persian cats.
As the BEC became incredibly profitable it began to purchase the support of English politicians.
Dalrypmple explains that the BEC basically ruled India from 1757 to 1857, in 1858 the Crown took over rulership.creating the British Raj.
Dalrypmple’s book is must reading for anyone into Indian or British history. Any reader of 19th century British literature will recall all the family fortunes made in India, the younger brothers hoping to come home rich and marry the girl they love, hoping her parents will accept him now that he is wealthy.
The book is just so full of fascintating knowledge. We see that
Dalrymple is so right in telling us that The BEC conquest of India is greatest act of corporate violence in history. Not since Cortes was such richs brought back to Europe. Dalrymple details the English figures who ran The BEC. I was fascinated to learn Indian bankers coluded with The BEC to put puppet rulers in place to protect their income. For sure i wish now to know more about The Seth Bankers.
I was very surprised to learn that large battalions composed of highly trained African slaves were part of BEC’s army. I really want to know more about The Slave trade in India. Dalrymple just kind of tantalizes us with this. Dalrymple says Africa to India slave trade began when The Sierra Leone company was formed in 1592. (The Wikipedia article on The company tells a totally different story about the origins of this company. I think we need more details to accept this as a fact.)
The is a fascinating work. It is mostly a political history of India in the period. We learn next to nothing about the lives of ordinary Indians but a huge amount about their rulers.
For bio data and a list of The author’s other books, i refer you to
This is a wonderfully written book.