The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company
(Bloomsbury, 576 PP, £30)
Tablet bookshop price £27 • tel 020 7799 4064
It is no secret that British rule in India began with trade, nor that the East India Company exploited the country during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with ruthless violence and greed. But somehow this uncomfortable awareness has, for many of us – especially those like me with a modest, scholarly, nineteenth-century grandfather who spent 30 years in the Indian Civil Service – been muted by a lingering pride in what Britons gave to India. Men like my grandfather represented, we hoped, the transition from crude exploitation to benevolent, albeit intrinsically arrogant, paternalism. Perhaps the murky origins of the British Raj need no longer be such an embarassment? William Dalrymple’s mighty, passionate, opinionated new book sets out to remove the last vestiges of such wishful thinking.