The history of it is well documented -The British came to Indian shores as mercantile traders and over a span of nearly 350 years(starting from 1600) morphed from traders to soldiers to administrators to ruthless imperial rulers. This book chronicles the time period from 1599 to mid-1830s, a period Mr. Dalrymple believes was one of anarchy where multiple parties were jostling among each other for power and riches with the tide swinging every now and then.
Spread across 9 chapters and 400 pages, this book is an attempt to linearize the chaotic political, economic, cultural, and national dynamics between rulers of the Indian subcontinent, the British, the Dutch, and the French, with the Indian and British characters given the heft of the focus. Pieced together with an extensive array of letters, documents, treaties, books, and gazettes, it is an impressive and exhaustive feat of researching on Mr. Dalrymple's end.
I did have some concerns though - I wasn't sure who was the intended audience for this book. For a history novice like me, it was at times overly detailed and so in-depth that I ended up bored. That I had to retain the names of characters who were briefly mentioned in passing and never heard from again was something that got in my way. The minutiae of the war paraphernalia and the real-time tactics employed for fighting the war was again something which was not to my taste. That I took 25 days to finish this book was somewhat of a red flag because I am not such a slow reader.
That's not to discard the merits of the book - it is well-organized and if you're a history or trivia buff then it's right up your alley. I was done with my reading goal for 2020 so I was fine with reading at a slovenly pace but were I in the midst of reading other stuff, I might have put it aside for something lighter and crisper.