The Anarchy

‘The Relentless Rise of the East India Company’

(By William Dalrymple) (2019)

“Don’t Be Evil.”  The motto of Google, Inc., which has become something of a cocktail-party joke. At least the British East India Company never pretended to run India for the Indians.

There’s a risk in applying contemporary morality to historical figures and events. This is not to say History will be kind to, say, Mao, but a true fair history has to take a walk in the target’s shoes.  In this deep and worthy book, Mr Dalrymple tracks the serpentine path of the British East India Company, the first joint-stock private company to run a country – in fact, an Empire, in fact, several Empires (Mughal et Maratha).

A series of English sorties culminates in Clive, Hastings and the Wellesley boys carving up the sub-continent like a Christmas pudding, robbing its rich resources and sending a fortune home to Blighty. It is a well-researched and well-told tale, but the author is so much on the side of the natives that he seems to overlook the fact that it was basically the decadence of the various dynasties that opened the door to the commercial marauders in the first place.


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