... a vivid and richly detailed story ... Dalrymple...is delightfully evenhanded ... the greatest virtue of this disturbingly enjoyable book is perhaps less the questions it answers than the new ones it provokes about where corporations fit into the world, both then and now ... Dalrymple is surely right that 'in the end, it all came down to money.' That is perhaps the true lesson of the company’s history—and one that makes Dalrymple’s book worth reading by everyone, M.B.A. student or not.
... rampaging, brilliant, passionate ... Mr. Dalrymple gives us every sword-slash, every scam, every groan and battle cry...The Anarchy is not simply a gripping tale of bloodshed and deceit, of unimaginable opulence and intolerable starvation. It is shot through with an unappeasable moral passion ... Mr. Dalrymple’s narrative does not carry on much beyond the brutal victories of the Wellesley brothers in the Maratha Wars at the beginning of the 1800s. He is surely right in seeing this as the crucial period. But the later eclipse and extinction of the company would make a no less thrilling sequel.
... 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 ... Dalrymple has a sharp eye for a telling phrase ... explodes myths that have accreted around the history of the Company like barnacles on the hulls of its ships. Dalrymple’s beautifully paced prose corrects the view that there was a masterplan for conquering the subcontinent. He also disabuses readers of the mystique surrounding the civilising mission of empire, and exposes 200-year-old fake news about Tipu Sultan ... could not be described as light reading ... Ultimately, Dalrymple shines a forensic light on the knotty historical relationship between commercial and imperial power.
... gloriously opulent ... Dalrymple, who lives on a farm outside Delhi, clearly adores India and finds Clive’s bigotry and greed repulsive. But his love for the country does not cloud his judgment; this is not a superficial story of rapacious imperialists and their innocent victims ... There is, thankfully, little detail about the dull bureaucrats who ran the show ... 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. Yet from this book of beauty, a stark warning emerges...It’s an old story, but also a very modern one.
The Anarchy doesn’t disappoint: readable, informative, full of color. Dalrymple lets the protagonists speak for themselves as much as possible, protagonists which thankfully, but not surprisingly given the author, include Indians as much as Europeans ... This is not however an anti-colonial polemic but rather a considered, and considerably well-written, history. The various Indian rulers and nobles are presented warts and all, while he gives such credit (mostly military and sometimes administrative) to individual British (and other foreign) interlopers as they are due ... By the end of the book, the wide sweep of 18th-century Indian history (mostly) makes sense, which is no mean accomplishment.
The author is a marvelous storyteller. By quoting extensively from the company’s own voluminous records, private letters, and diaries, Persian-language sources, eyewitness accounts penned by an insightful local historian, and other reports, Dalrymple creates a 'You Are There' environment for the reader that makes the book hard to put down. Dalrymple has a special gift for describing the main characters in the story as if he knew them personally; every major actor in the drama comes to life ... Dalrymple tells the story with empathy and feeling. He deeply sympathizes with the Mughal rulers who were helpless to prevent the dismembering of their empire ... what happened to prisoners was often worse than what happened to soldiers on the battlefield ... Dalrymple does not spare the reader.
Dalrymple’s first achievement in The Anarchy is to render this history an energetic pageturner that marches from the counting house on to the battlefield, exploding patriotic myths along the way ... However well-known these events may be to some—thanks not least to his own work—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 ... He has a particular talent for using Indian paintings as historical sources, a skill complemented by the volume’s sumptuous illustrations. And nobody sets a scene as well as he does, whether scoping out an enemy fleetthrough an informant’s spyglass, or watching the waterlogged bodies of famine victims floating down the Hooghly river, or roaming the rubbished and ruined streets of ransacked Delhi ... This story...needs to be read to beat back the wilfully ignorant imperial nostalgia gaining ground in Britain and the poisonously distorted histories trafficked by Hindu nationalists in India.
Dalrymple’s prodigious talents are on full display in the telling of this story: his ability to direct the big picture and give us convincing viewpoints from each of the very different players; to paint beautiful miniature portraits of the key figures; to describe landscapes in such detail that they seem familiar even though we may never have been there; and above all to make us care about things that happened 300 years ago. He is even-handed, too, for while he condemns the Company’s administration for bringing on the anarchy and misery that overwhelmed princely India, he recognises that some of the Company’s traders and administrators (his own relatives among them) acted on a personal level in the way one would have wished the Company to have done.
The book...takes a brutally honest look at the communities of traders and bankers who used the hundi system to facilitate the movement of money and revenue ... If you want a fresh perspective to a history which has been 'so muddied by Victorian and Indian nationalists' then get your hands on a copy for a refreshing insight on the age-old story.
The Anarchy, William Dalrymple’s gripping book on the East India Company’s 'relentless rise' in the Indian subcontinent from 1756 to 1803, settles many things ... Still, Dalrymple’s literary commitments and tight focus on the Company constrain it from grappling fully with the realities of colonialism ... Drawing richly from sources in multiple languages, The Anarchy is gorgeously adorned with luminous images representing a range of perspectives. (I only wish the poetry laced throughout had also been presented in the original languages.) Delightful passages abound ... Of course, history is a human story, not a crime scene, but the way we narrate it is informed by the ethical and political mores we favor in our own time, and insofar as 'our world is far from post-imperial, and quite probably will never be,' we are obligated to question the old canard that India was asking for it. Dalrymple styles Delhi as 'an overripe mango […] in decay, ready to fall and disintegrate,' but colonial cliché is surely more rotten ... Dalrymple has taken us to the limit of what page-turning history can be and do. But it works by activating cultural-neural wiring older than Kipling.
It is well-trodden territory but Dalrymple, a historian and author who lives in India and has written widely about the Mughal empire, brings to it erudition, deep insight and an entertaining style ... It is hard to find a simple lesson, beyond Dalrymple’s point that talk of Britain having conquered India 'disguises a much more sinister reality'. Facebook and Uber usurp national authority but they do not seize physical territory; even an oil company with private guards in a war-torn country does not compare.