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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
4.5 out of 5 stars (27 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

Critic Reviews

"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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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Terrible performance

At least get some pronunciations right before you start recording. even words like vizier or maratha are butchered.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Fascinating tale of how a Company captured India!

The author has done a brilliant job of explaining how a 'Private' company i.e. the East India company ended up capturing power in India. If you haven't read books on this particular part of Indian history, you will thoroughly enjoy (listening to) this book.

Downsides:
1. Can't see any Maps, pics of forts, emperors, kings, nawabs, etc...

2. The pronunciations leave a LOT to be desired. The narrator can't even pronounce his own name properly! Instead of सागर, he pronounces his name as सेगर!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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history reloaded

the book is one of the finest books to understand how in 50 years the British ruled India. how the different actors the maratha , mughals , England, the company, Hyderabad and tipu sultan all navigated and eventually lost to the British particularly the plunder of bengal

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Must read

Well written and well narrated. Tries to be fact based and objective, with no obvious bias one way or the other. Essential reading for all students of Indian history, capitalism, corporations and economics.

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Vivid & Riveting Audiobook

Thoroughly enjoyed William's vivid painting of rise of EIC. He's the History teacher I wish I had.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Stephen
  • 30-10-19

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.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Venetia
  • 05-12-19

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.

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  • Michael
  • 22-11-19

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.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • mekongcb7071
  • 15-11-19

History repeats itself.

Well done history of a fascinating period in the history of a fascinating country. Many similarities to today.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Miss
  • 06-11-19

Dalrymple Does It Again

Wonderfully written book wonderfully narrated. Could not stop listening. Much food for thought here comparing and contrasting to today...

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Esarbee
  • 30-11-19

Dry

Very dry. Couldn’t get into the story. Returning for a credit. Narrator is fine, not his fault.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Gillian
  • 09-11-19

Interesting story spoilt by poor narration

I have never given up on an audio book before but gave up on this after about 3 hours. The narration is so poor that it makes the story line difficult to follow. Some of it is not the narrator's fault - who had the bright idea of reading out all the footnotes everytime there is a quotation from another writer? Everytime there is a mention of money (and given the subject that is frequently) he reads out the converstion into today' s money, that becomes maddening after a while.
But, in my view, the narrator is poor. He shows no empathy with the story he is reading and never varies the pace.

I am going to buy the book and read it as I am sure the story is interesting. Maybe the book deserves more than 3 stars but I have only listened to a portion of it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Bad Teacher
  • 06-11-19

Buy it in print

I made it to the end but despite the beautiful Indian pronunciation, this epic tome was ruined by the kindergarten tone of the narrator. No feel for the text that made it just made it so many words and hard to follow (don't start me on the infuriating currency conversions) and I had to re-listen to great chunks of it. It really needs an accompanying pdf as the print version is full of interesting content.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • movie moghul
  • 23-11-19

The devil is the detail

The narrative struggled to hold my interest at times due to the bewildering ebb and flow of the various conquering factions. So it gets a bit messy to keep up with particularly since the detail on Indian moghul families often had little to do with the East India Company. But there's some cracking descriptions of the cruelty and evil nature of all sides involved. Nobody comes out looking good.. But in the end it was well worth the listen.

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  • Ms. Sheila A. Hyem Hunter
  • 21-11-19

Ruined by Gabbling reader

I have long been a fan of William Dalrymple's books and have print copies of all but the present one which I hoped to enjoy as much as the previous ones by listening to the audio version. Alas, this has not been so. I value William Dalrymple's work for its detailed and meticulous research and the fact that the works are extremely dense in the sense that there is more information per sentence and per paragraph packed into each book than is usual. For this quality of densely-packed information, a more measured style of reading is, in my opinion anyway, obligatory if the poor listener is to be able to derive even a fraction of the information being presented. I appreciate that it has become a widespread phenomenon for the young to gabble - and to thus making their utterances completely incomprehensible to the listener. This is not important when it is their own utterances which cannot be heard. It is, however, of vital importance when the speed of delivery is such that the listener cannot hope to derive all the densely-packed meaning from sentences constructed with infinite care by a master of the written word such as William Dalrymple. I have no idea whether the reader of this book is young, and certainly clarity was not an issue, but the speed of delivery made it impossible for me to enjoy even the first chapter of this work. I gave up.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Zak
  • 19-11-19

Great read!

Great write up that together with White Mughals and the one on the trial of Bahadur Shah Zafar covers the beginning of British and European influence in India all the way to the last days of its last Mughal King.
This focuses on 18th century India through the eyes of some of its most fascinating characters. Especially Shah Alam.

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  • Livingstone McDonald
  • 16-11-19

It is a gripping immersive book

Historical, factual and detailed but not boring nor does it ramble on. This book reads with intensity of a big screen blockbuster.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • E Mewling
  • 14-11-19

Good book poorly read

Little thought given to the listener - seemed to me that the reading was done without a director. Despite this I still enjoyed the book.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Takudza
  • 15-11-19

Needed better background.

It was okay. Filled in a gap in my knowledge about how the Brits got their mitts on India. I felt the book needed more detail on how the Moghuls established themselves in India to begin with. I really didn’t understand why they spoke Persian or why Muslims were ruling this largely Hindu nation and how the Afghans kept popping up. Who I’m exactly were the Muratas?

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Charles
  • 12-11-19

Historically spurious at best.

Almost an exhibition in ahistoricism. Lacking any real historical context.

Despite this it was well performed and was an easy listen, despite content.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful