Customer Review

Reviewed in India on 12 October 2019
This is Romila Thapar meets Wilbur Smith. Rarely have I read a piece of researched history which is such a page turner; of its 500 pages, about 100 are devoted to footnotes and references. And it deals with the systematic pillage of wealth from Indian subcontinent, by a corporation that was formed to trade, and ‘wage war’, as necessary.
The book starts with 1599 when the East India Company (EIC) charter was approved, covering the next 200 years of EIC operations in India. About four-fifth of the book covers events after Clive’s arrival in India, when Siraj-ud-Daula ran amuck in Calcutta c1756. It covers a large canvas of events, conspiracies, murders, wars, alliances, treacheries and the like across East, South and North India, with concurrently running timelines. And the author has done a terrific job of creating a narrative for such a varied cast of characters. Although not elaborated, but the book also makes one wonder how fragmented and fragile the idea of ‘India’ is, from a historical perspective. It took a few thousand EIC employees to subjugate an entire nation, and rule for 2 centuries! This story is of disquiet, and of despair.
The book (somewhat suddenly) ends with Wellesley’s tenor around 1807 as Governor General. I sincerely hope that Mr. Dalrymple is working on the sequel; those next 150 years to India’s independence also have a cast as colorful, and events as gory, if not more. We wish there were more books of this kind (unlike the NCERT genre), where the characters are ‘live’ and events contextualized.
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