The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire Hardcover – 10 September 2019
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Dalrymple is a writer who can make the most recondite historical issues come alive ... Quite simply brilliant
An outstanding book, distinguished by its painstaking research, narrative flair and imagination (Evening Standard)
A compulsively readable masterpiece (New York Review of Books)
As taut and richly embroidered as a great novel . A masterpiece of nuanced writing (Daily Telegraph)
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- Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing (10 September 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 576 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1526618508
- ISBN-13 : 978-1526618504
- Item Weight : 899 g
- Dimensions : 20.3 x 25.4 x 4.7 cm
- Country of Origin : United Kingdom
- Net Quantity : 1.00 count
- Generic Name : Book
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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But most importantly it tells us in great details how could a small group of merchants from a far away land capture the richest and most powerful empire in the world of that era.
From what I understood the reasons were too
1) Our rulers were all megalomaniac and myopic with no one capable of looking beyond their ego and uniting with others for the greater good
2) The continuous financial support by the indian business class to the East India Company in their endeavors to overthrow existing rulers. So Jagat Seth helped Clive overthrow Siraj and Gopaldas helped Welseley against Tipu. Why? For all that mattered to these individuals was greater financial returns, even if that meant accepting a foreign invasion!
300 years later what has really changed? Are our leaders truly United even on issues of National importance?
Are our business class morale enough to not sell the country for a greater return on investment?
Sorry for the long post but, I do hope friends that you read this most important book 😊
By Abul Hasan Jamadar on 12 September 2019
By SADHU ROHIT REDDY on 13 September 2019
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.
By AID on 11 September 2019
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The book is a chronology of the Mughals and the how the British gained India, the heavy-handed, brutal antics of the East India Company and its British officers. He singles out Lord Robert Clive. He attacks him in a personal, vindictive way, which not only smacks of amateurism but reads as though he's trying to appease a little gang somewhere. It made me focus on it. He makes him the villain of the piece. Yet from Clive's correspondence, (not quoted in this book), we read that this same man, upon purchasing of land in Wales and on the Welsh borders, pored over the maps to ask which tenant farmed what type of land and, where they were farming marginal hill land, reduced their rent to a 'homage rent,' peppercorn, which is not consistent with the bigoted picture Mr. Dalrymple paints. He's equally rude about the Powis family, but I notice, but didn't have the grace to visit any of them during his research, as Bence Jones had in his book Clive of India, who went to see the Earl of Plymouth and gathered a lot of personal information thereby. Obviously Mr Dalrymple considers himself above common courtesy.
Later in the book, he accuses Henrietta Clive who went to India to join her husband Edward, Governor of Madras, of carrying off jewels looted from Tipu Sultan's palace after his defeat by Richard Wellesley in 1799 (p 353). She paid for them. Had she not bought them where would they be now? Not in an Indian museum for certain. They'd have been lost. Today they form part of a collection of the National Trust in Powys Castle. It's reminiscent of the Elgin Marbles: had Elgin not recovered these, where would they have been now? In Greek hands? Or more likely, become target practice, smashed up and turned into foundation rubble for a block of flats. Had Robert Clive, Lord Robert Clive's great-grandson, not gone as watercolour artist to record the excavations at of the Assyrian reliefs in Nimroud and imported to England The Assyrian King Tukul-apil-esharra III (Tiglath-pileser III) bas relief, (which now hangs in the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum), where would that be now? Robert Clive painted the lamassu - the monolithic stone sculptures of human headed winged bulls - which Layard shipped to England, which were exhibited in a the British Museum this year. The ones that remained ISIS blew up and defaced, whose shattered remains vividly demonstrate. Perhaps it might have been a little less spiteful to thank Henrietta Clive for saving these treasures. And Lady Clive, Lord Robert Clive's wife, Margaret Maskelyne - whose character he attempts to assassinate by first of all attempting to demonise her brother, Dr. Nevil Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal, whom Dava Sobel turned into the blockhead of her book Longitude, then secondly by telling us of a report from The Salisbury Journal that her 'pet ferret had a diamond necklace £2,500' (p 140). It was a joke Mr Dalrymple, a satirical joke. She didn't really have a pet ferret with a diamond necklace, you see. To try to pass that one off as fact is a bit cheap. And another, if a beggar asked charity of Clive, he reputedly responded: 'Friend, I have no small brilliants about me,' is another joke, Mr Dalrymple: a skit. It's depressing to encounter an historian so unfamiliar with 18th Century satire and humour as to miss it again and again. It might explain why his own book is so shorn of it. Usually I look forward to my bed time read but not this one. I slogged on to encounter yet more dubiously executed insults of Clive.
We are told that after Plassey Clive 'wore six or seven bracelets, every one of a different species of gem; and he also had hanging from his neck, over his breast, three or four chaplets of pearls, every one of inestimable value...He at the same time amused himself with listening to the songs and looking at the dances of a number of singers, who he carried around with him wherever he went on elephants.' Pull the other one - it's way out of character. Moreover, given that Mr Dalrymple assures us how much Clive hated India and the Indians it seems pretty unlikely that he would go around dressed or behaving like one. As a source he quotes Ghulam Hussan Khan, whoever he is, it reads to me that Ghulam Hussan Khan cracked another satirical joke, another Mr Dalrymple missed.
On page 263, he delivers another twist of spite where Shah Alam writes a letter to his fellow monarch George III in England, sending along a nazr (ceremonial gift) of rare jewels worth Rs100,000 (£1M today we are advised). Neither letters nor gift reached their destination. The inference being Clive stole them.
Ships sunk, Mr Dalrymple. Cargoes never reached England. Many fortunes were lost at sea. Including gifts from potentates, one to another. Check your shipping and you'll find out.
This book is a slog. There are no insightful little cameos of what it must have been like to have been a sepoy, or gunner or mahoot in the Indian army, or in the EIC army for that matter, no insight into the daily fare. For me, Dalrymple falls into the category of the dusty academic who manages to cram in every historical detail while missing the human story. It makes for heavy going: the book is thick, it's hard to hold in bed at night, the only place to read it is on a desk or table, I'd advise anyone thinking of buying it to get the Kindle version at you'll be spared the struggle.
The best line in the book comes right at the end when Shah Alam dies, which tells us that he was the last of the Timurid line, beginning with the lame and ending with the blind - but even they're not his words. They come from a quote by William Fraser, Ochterlony's deputy. p 387. Shah Alam had awarded the Diwani with Clive and his end was as a 'chessboard' king, with a pension paid by the EIC under the protection of Richard Wellesley, who 'conquered more of India than Napoleon did of Europe', become power-mad and turned into a something of a despot himself before being recalled to England for his excesses. His brother Arthur, later the Duke of Wellington, returned from India a very wealthy man as well. Do we hear any criticism of these? How they came by their loot?
The East India Company was a rotten business, and as he fairly states, an example of irresponsible corporate greed at its very worst but then so had been the South Sea Company, which very nearly brought down the entire British economy in the 1720s. Commerce, it would appear, does not learn.
All told, I found the book turgid and prejudiced. I'll certainly not pick it up again nor recommend it.
Irritated by the constant asterisked conversions of 1600’s pounds to ‘today’s’ money (as if ‘today’ was somehow a fixed time point) but more seriously because the conversion has been made at a fixed factor of 105 which is misleading and taken to ridiculous exactitude. Thus on page 12 we are solemnly advised that £68,373 in 1600 is worth £7,179,165 ‘today’. Internet references suggest a factor range between 200 and 75,000 when comparing 1600 to 2019. At a factor of 105 EIC Directors are not much more recompensed than some FTSE CEO’s (think Persimmon), but in terms of manned militia at their disposal or country estates that could be bought the factor must be much higher.
This book is essentially on the conquest of India by the East India Company (EIC) during a fifty-year period. It is excellent on the key protagonists in the EIC and on the rulers in Mughal India at the time. It contains many graphic and fascinating descriptions of the political manoeuvring and the military campaigns.
But, I had bought this book because I wanted to learn about the EIC and there is relatively very little on the political, organizational and management aspects of the EIC in the UK and not that much in India itself.
In addition, the book is too long for the content. It could have been cut by 100 pages by skilful editing and by the elimination of the details of the endless battles.
So, at one level, I really enjoyed the book and I managed to read it to the end, just ...
At another level, I felt cheated. I wouldn't have bought the book if it had been given a more accurate title. (and, by the way, was the use of the word "anarchy" deliberately ambiguous?)