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The Anarchy

The Relentless Rise of the East India Company
Written by: William Dalrymple
Narrated by: Sid Sagar
Length: 15 hrs and 43 mins
Categories: History, Europe
5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Anarchy by William Dalrymple, read by Sid Sagar.

The Top Five Sunday Times Best Seller

Longlisted for The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2019

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 audiobook 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.

©2019 William Dalrymple (P)2019 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

What the critics say

"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)  

"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)

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

remarkable story of corporate colonialism

loved the book. well researched and well narrated. another fantastic book by Dalrymple. eagerly waiting for the next one.

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  • Venetia
  • 2019-12-05

A magnificent history and cautionary tale

A beautifully produced book with extraordinary color plates showing geographic scenes and contemporary art. It is a deep and learned dive into the history of the East India Company, very well written in an engaging and energetic style with much illustrative detail. The author does a fine job of balancing the amount of background detail needed to understand the context. He implies relevance to current times but does so with an appreciated subtlety.

The reader has a great narrative voice BUT mispronounces many words which is distracting.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Stephen
  • 2019-10-30

Abandoned

Abandoned after 4 hours. Really wanted to like it. Loved the three other Darlymple history books I have read. Attributing it partly to the narrator who is flying through the words without seeming to understand what is being read, resulting in misplaced emphasis, like reading to children, exactly the opposite for this epic story. I think there is a good story here, but hard to follow. Might also be the nature of the book, anyway, doesn't make a good audiobook IMO but probably decent in book form if you take time checking out maps, looking up names, reading background etc.. not easy material for the uninitiated.

17 people found this helpful

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  • TexasVC
  • 2020-02-25

excellent book but awkward narration

I really loved the the book, but confused why the voice performer, Sid Sagar, horrendously mispronounced all of the South Asian names and places. Especially painful was his attempts to read Urdu poetry. For a book on South Asian history, a voice performer capable of pronouncing the local languages needs to be a requirement!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Paul Ark
  • 2019-12-27

Great premise, wasted potential

Less a history of the East India Company, and more a history of India military history during the time of EIC’s presence in India. Overwrought with pointless detail and irrelevant quotes & passages from historical letters and text, this book is a dry narrative of the history of various warlords in India during the 18th century, with the rise and fall of the EIC as context. Very short on analysis, and the implications of corporate imperialism. Great premise, but poor result and wasted potential.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Neil Wilkinson
  • 2020-04-13

Very very well done.

If you've ever wondered what happened to General Cornwallis after the Battle of Yorktown . . .

1 person found this helpful

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  • Matthew Stein
  • 2020-03-25

Wonderful

A pure delight, loved every minute. Particularly enjoyable were a few guest appearances of various Dalrymples.

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  • Michael Levien
  • 2020-02-16

The modern equivalent of these sums...

if i ever have to hear that phrase again... give us the rough parameters of conversion rates over this period once at the beginning rather than repeating it so tediously.

won’t please a historian or historical sociologist but a good listen with some colorful details.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 2019-11-22

Superb, Authoritative

The review that complains about the performance is ignorant and exactly backwards. The reader is fluent in both English and Indian pronunciations, and does a mesmerizing job of making this hugely important story hum right along. The writer, meanwhile, clearly knows this topic and is able to blend serious sociological comments with gripping, well-told history.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Edward V. Blanchard
  • 2020-05-28

Fascinating history!

There’s so much I learned about Indian history and the rise & evolution of the East India Company. The only challenge of the book for me is the anti-capitalist/anti-corporation preachiness of the introduction and the epilogue. The history itself, is well told, full of opportunities, achievements & evils on all sides. And, one learns, it could have turned out differently! I liked this book a lot!

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  • Stephen
  • 2020-05-21

Fascinating but a little hard to follow on Audible

Really enjoyed this book. Contrary to popular belief, England did not colonize India; a private company did.

Might be better to read this one than listen to it. Hard to follow the people and place names without seeing them in print. At least for my ears.