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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 (43 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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  • 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.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 person found this 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 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A masterpiece every Indian should read.

A masterpiece every Indian should read to understand how we gave our country away to a corporation. However, the choice of the narrator is poor. While his English and French are eloquent, he has no understanding of anything Indian and systematically murders the names of every person, place, river, book and everything Indian. If you care about this, you will suffer throughout this book just like me.

I sincerely suggest that audible re record this with a different narrator for its Indian audience.

1 person found this helpful

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  • RM
  • 19-12-19

Good book read with atrocious pronunciations.

It’s a well written book. Well researched with thoughtful insights. Good book read with atrocious pronunciations of words from Indian languages. Mr. Sagar shamelessly and totally butchers them.

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Wished it never ended...

Great storytelling, hard facts and perceptive views... all mixed up in a very engrossing read. Only, although occasional, let down were some mispronunciation of Hindi/Indian words.

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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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  • 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.

5 people found this helpful

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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.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Paul Ark
  • 27-12-19

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.

4 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 22-01-20

Wonderful book, terribly read

A truly great book. Surely they could have picked a better reader - although of Indian heritage, the reader is wholly unfamiliar with Indian words and his very poor attempts at pronouncing them in an “Indian way” are grating.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Aparisim Ghosh
  • 09-01-20

An excellent book, ruined by appalling performance

It is not unusual for a performer to mispronounce non-English words, but this is a fatal flaw in a book that has such words in every other line.
Mr. Sagar has an Indian name, but he mangles Indian words in ways that would embarrass an Englishman who has never been to India. Worse, he doesn't seem to have thought it necessary to do any research, or seek help from someone who does speak an Indian language... ANY Indian language.
The result is a horrible disfiguration of an excellent, important book.
What a shame.

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  • Phil Queeg
  • 02-01-20

Comic Relief for MBA's

This is a remarkably disappointing book which I listened to on Audible. The book concludes in 1803 at a point when many of the most interesting episodes, including the situation leading up to the Opium Wars, were still in the future. It also has almost nothing to do with the East India Company as a business enterprise. It mostly deals the internal Indian politics and recounts various nawabs disemboweling nizams, nizams gouging out the eyes of sultans, sultans castrating emirs, and emirs immolating nawabs.
The introduction does sort of bring up a few business related topics, but one might wonder if Mr. Dalrymple has much acquaintance with business except what he might pick up from Elizabeth Warren and Jeremy Corbyn. He states, “As with all such corporations, then as now, the EIC was answerable only to its shareholders.” This would, of course, be amazing news to those greedy capitalists who much deal with multiple levels of government regulation in multiple countries in which they do business. He refers to an early Dutch voyage earning a profit of 400% and another 1603 voyage as having earned a 300% profit. Earning profits three or four times total revenues is a good trick and quite impossible. Perhaps Mr. Dalrymple is referring to returns on investment. Elsewhere he refers to the company’s balance sheets growing increasingly profitable, but profits are not shown on balance sheets.
Mr. Dalrymple, a respected historian, also makes the revolutionary disclosures that the Boston Tea Party “triggered the American Revolution” and that George Washington declared American independence following his victory at Yorktown in 1781. Many people would instead consider the correct date to be July, 4, 1776.
Mr. Dalrymple really goes off the rails in the Epilogue which might seem to some like the fevered dreams of Beto O’Rourke after a night out drinking with Jane Fonda, Nancy Pelosi, and Charles Manson.

3 people found this helpful

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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 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this 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.

6 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-12-19

Amazing story, terrible recording

I loved the book.

There was clearly something badly wrong with the audio though. It deserves being re-recorded properly.

1 person found this 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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • CNY
  • 27-01-20

Poor writing and analysis hides a good story

A shame that poor writing makes the story cumbersome and at times highly turgid. In the Second half of book the writing improves but is overall well below the flowing style of many successful historians. This detracts from a fascinating period worthy of much study.
A little unbalanced in the author’s assessment and many assertions of key players. This myopic view undermines the arguments and by the end of the book a poorly articulated view of the past and near past emerges. A shame.
The narrator’s tone and some pronunciation is annoying at times.

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  • Azathoth
  • 16-01-20

Dalrymple at his best

Not travel literature. if you came expecting another city of djinns, you may be disappointed. Dalrymple has managed to write a thorough historical overview of the East India Company in a most exciting writing style. it's really worth a read. Sid Sagar's narration is also very good.

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  • S
  • 17-12-19

excellent narrative ...

poor narration, largely due to mangled pronunciation of non-English nouns. The text itself flows smoothly and is a riveting listen.

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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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  • 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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  • Howling Fantods
  • 09-12-19

Directionless and difficult to follow.

I found this history very uncentred. You expect its core to be the history of the EIC, its crimes and its functions over time but such huge portions are dedicated Mughal history which often just feel contextualising rather than informing. I also found these portions difficult to follow, mostly due to my ignorance of Indian history, but I became easily lost in the continuous royal lineage and infighting.
The prologue and epilogue frame the book around the theme of corporate excess and its interrelationship with empire but there is very little in the actual text that speaks to this.
The performance was fairly good and articulated but nothing fantastic.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Gerrit Gmel
  • 18-01-20

Amazing history, average performance

The history is amazing, the writing is great and well resourced. My only beef is with the narrator. It is quite infuriating having all non-English names and words butchered and basically just pronounced in a weird way. I feel like it can’t have been very hard to ask a French speaker how to pronounce “compagnie” or “gentil”. Not sure if the Indian and other foreign names are also butchered, but I had to look up what the narrator meant a few times which takes you out of the story.
Besides that it’s fascinating, and an important part of history that is strangely lacking in many history lessons!

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  • Rodney Wetherell
  • 05-01-20

The best kind of historical writing

I knew a bit about the East India Company - indeed I had to teach the history of British India many years ago, at an elementary level. I knew the Company specialized in plunder and exploitation, but had no idea how bad it was, over a very long period. Dalrymple has told a pretty awful story in an entertaining way, but does not gloss over the evils of such Imperialist expansion. The Mughals of course understood the process well, having engaged in conquest in India themselves.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-12-19

lesson for today

well worth the 'read' for the awareness of the destruction caused by the avarice of the directors of the East India Compan

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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 people found this helpful

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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.