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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.

One of Barack Obama's best books of 2019.

Longlisted for The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2019.

A Financial Times, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Wall Street Journal and Times book of the year.

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.

©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)

What listeners say about The Anarchy

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Very Good. Not for Me

This book was a 'Daily Deal' offer, I like books about History, and the Reviews are really good so I took a chance. I'm glad I got it.
The book is packed with mind-blowing events surrounding the East India company in India during the 18th/19th century...corporate military mercantilism - Fascinating.
Dalrymple writes really well - interesting and authoritative, without being overwhelmed by direct quotes from period documents, as so many academic works are. Historical dates and events are brought to life through Dalrymple's style.
The only real drawback is that I wasn't engrossed by the subject material - and got lost frequently...with my mind wandering. Repeatedly giving monetary conversions IN THE TEXT gets annoying, too.

Sid Sagar is an excellent narrator. Pronunciations loyal to the subject.

I hope I don't bring down the rating - it’s likely worth 8 stars, but I can't give it that. Just not my topic. 6 stars out of 10.

3 people found this helpful

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A good listen

I really enjoyed this book. A great listen. I will caveat that the author seems to spend as much time on the downfall of the Moughal Dynasty as he does the East India Company. That wasn't a downside for me - I found it fascinating, because it was all new to me.

Definitely no regrets on the purchase.

1 person found this helpful

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A riveting, compelling story

I have read some of William Dalrymple's other books and enjoyed them, but nothing prepared me for how good this book would be. It is more compelling than any novel I have read in the past ten years, and I was disappointed when it ended. The story of how a company cheated, lied, stole and fought its way to control the richest country of its time, has never, never a boring moment. Dalrymple writes convincing biographies of the main Indian, Persian, Afghan and British characters, among them many true scoundrels - on all sides - and explains in lively prose both the military and political plots.

The narrator was excellent, and I will look for both more books written by Dalrymple, and for books narrated by Sid Sagar.

My only minor quibble was with the insertion of long footnotes in the middle of lively text, but I think that is an editorial issue which could be easily dealt with.

I have already recommended this book, without reservation, to several people in my family and among my professional colleauges.

1 person found this helpful

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unparalleled research and seamless presentation

I was overwhelmed by the combination of solid research, assessment, and inclusion of journals that gave a historical story. it really was a story that can be listened to for just that, but to also have the references and data to go with it was such a bonus.

it was such genius to interweave the actual writings of all sides into the work, so personal a journey to read, so horrific a reality to expose. The level of depravity and loss for the peoples of India is a struggle to grasp...I mean really, there are numbers but this work has opened my eyes on what drives colonialism and how foreign governments step in.

still overwhelmed that this was one business, yet others operated further East

1 person found this helpful

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  • 2020-06-06

Excellent

I guess there is some irony in an English performer of Indian descent being incapable of pronouncing Indian words and names in an otherwise good oration of the rise of the British in India.

Rich with detail, and fascinating source material - the book is what I hoped it would be. Dalrymple's writing is excellent. His source material is fascinating. His articulation of the history is well crafted. Sid Sagar did a decent job - except when it came to actually pronouncing names terms and words of the subcontinent of his ancestors.

1 person found this helpful

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Simply excellent

Engagingly written, extensively researched, timely, and very well narrated. A fine introduction for any casual reader of history and a gripping read for anyone else.

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History's First Corporation Runs Amok

A wonderfully detailed, richly textured history of the first 100 years of the world’s first corporation, the East India Company. But more so, I am grateful for the weight the author gives to the complex narrative of India's culture and politics in opposition. Even the epilogue is a gift. Masterfully written and the narrator more than equal to the task - pitch perfect.

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Unfortunately Aimless

Occasionally travelling extremely slowly, at times extremely quickly , and sometimes doubling back, though time, I often found myself lost. Sid's general lack of enunciation really didn't help.

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What an amazing book! It left me wanting more

Having known just the barebones history of the takeover of India by the East India Company, I was looking for something more in-depth. I found this gem of a book that satiated my appetite yet left me wanting for more. The book is well researched and extremely well written. I have listened to it a couple of times and each time I recognize a detail in the story that I had glossed over. I wish he would write a follow-up book.

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  • SJ
  • 2021-01-05

Great book

Extremely well researched and undoubtedly detailed account of history as it played out between East and West in India.

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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!

28 people found this helpful

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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.

9 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.

13 people found this helpful

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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.

6 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.

26 people found this helpful

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  • Michael Dawson
  • 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.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Warren
  • 2021-03-13

Excellent, just excellent

The narration was perfect. He could properly pronounce the native names. He also could bring you into all of the scenes, all of the struggles, and of the beauty of India, and horror of war. I was moved at the effect a corporation could have, and how it relates to matters of this day. I may listen to this book again.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-07-06

Poor pronunciation

I am surprised to see that the narrator, Sid Sagar, read history at Bristol. I have never heard plague pronounced plag, people often get Samuel Pepys(Peeps) name wrong but honestly Worchester for Worcester. Spoiled the book for me. Presumably Mr. Dalrymple's editor is responsible.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Elizabeth
  • 2021-02-01

Fascinating, flawed

This book purports to study the rise of the first corporate multinational and its foundational role in the rapacious British colonization of India. I was expecting a thorough study of the structures and functions of the corporate beast, a social institutional economic history. But the meat of the book is a more traditional narrative history of battles and personalities between the EIC and the “anarchy” of waning Mughal rule. Since I am ignorant about this too, I enjoyed the read. Just expected more socio-economic history.

1 person 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