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THE TOP 5 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 2019
A FINANCIAL TIMES, OBSERVER, DAILY TELEGRAPH AND TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR
'Dalrymple is a superb historian with a visceral understanding of India . A book of beauty' - Gerard DeGroot, The Times
In August 1765 the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and forced him to establish in his richest provinces a new administration run by English merchants who collected taxes through means of a ruthless private army - what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation.
The East India Company's founding charter authorised it to 'wage war' and it had always used violence to gain its ends. But the creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional international trading corporation dealing in silks and spices and became something much more unusual: an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. In less than four decades it had trained up a security force of around 200,000 men - twice the size of the British army - and had subdued an entire subcontinent, conquering first Bengal and finally, in 1803, the Mughal capital of Delhi itself. The Company's reach stretched until almost all of India south of the Himalayas was effectively ruled from a boardroom in London.
The Anarchy tells the remarkable story of how one of the world's most magnificent empires disintegrated and came to be replaced by a dangerously unregulated private company, based thousands of miles overseas in one small office, five windows wide, and answerable only to its distant shareholders. In his most ambitious and riveting book to date, William Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before, unfolding a timely cautionary tale of the first global corporate power.
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Gloriously opulent . India is a sumptuous place. Telling its story properly demands lush language, not to mention sensitivity towards the country's passionate complexity. Dalrymple is a superb historian with a visceral understanding of India . A book of beauty (Gerard DeGroot The Times)
An energetic pageturner that marches from the counting house on to the battlefield, exploding patriotic myths along the way . Dalrymple's spirited, detailed telling will be reason enough for many readers to devour The Anarchy. But his more novel and arguably greater achievement lies in the way he places the company's rise in the turbulent political landscape of late Mughal India (Maya Jasanoff Guardian)
A tour de force ***** (Anne de Courcy Telegraph)
Dalrymple has been at the forefront of the new wave of popular history, consistently producing work that engages with a wider audience through writerly craft, an emphasis on characters and their agency, evocative description of place and time, and the inclusion of long-neglected perspectives . The book's real achievement is to take readers to an important and neglected period of British and south Asian history, and to make their trip their not just informative but colourful (Jason Burke Observer)
Magnificent . Dalrymple is an accomplished historian with a gift for imposing narrative clarity on a complex story. He combines a profound understanding of the background against which the Company's story played out with an impressive capacity to weave a range of historical voices into this history . The Anarchy explodes myths that have accreted around the history of the Company like barnacles on the hulls of its ships (John McAleer Evening Standard)
It is well-trodden territory but Dalrymple ... brings to it erudition, deep insight and an entertaining style (Financial Times)
Combining extensive research, judicious analysis and an acceptable level of outrage, Dalrymple's compelling account will cement his status as the most widely read British writer on India since Kipling . A brave and stirring narrative of India's eighteenth-century fragmentation (John Keay Literary Review)
One of the best books on Indian history published in a long time (Tirthankar Roy Times Literary Supplement)
[A] rampaging, brilliant, passionate history . Dalrymple gives us every sword-slash, every scam, every groan and battle cry. He has no rival as a narrative historian of the British in India . A gripping tale of bloodshed and deceit, of unimaginable opulence and intolerable starvation ... shot through with an unappeasable moral passion (Wall Street Journal)
'Masterful . Dalrymple has been for some years one of the most eloquent and assiduous chroniclers of Indian history. With this new work, he sounds a minatory note . Dalrymple has done a great service in not just writing an eminently readable history of eighteenth-century India, but in reflecting on how so much of it serves as a warning for our own time' (Stuart Kelly Scotland on Sunday)
In his most ambitious book to date, bestselling historian William Dalrymple tells the timely and cautionary tale of the rise of the East India Company and one of the most supreme acts of corporate violence in world history
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