William Dalrymple's Anarchy shows how a single business operation replaced the Mughal empire to rule the Indian subcontinent. The East India Company was a first major multi-national corporation, and an early example of a joint-stock enterprise.
The Anarchy title refers to what Indians call the Great Anarchy, a period as the British showed up when constant wars and invasions redistributed (concentrated) the wealth continuously, and when no one was ever quite sure whose empire they were living in from one year to the next. The various Emperors, nabobs, nawabs, viziers, and shahs were constantly making alliances, ignoring them, going to war, combining, separating, and killing. Always killing. Piles of bodies and rivers of blood. And betraying. Almost as much betraying as killing it often seems. It makes for a riveting read, which becomes more amazing the farther you get into it. Dalrymple keeps up the pace and entrances with remarkable stories.
A key highlight of the book is its portrayal of different characters and the roles they played in the chronology of events. From a vivid description of Robert Clive, to the descriptions of the Jagat Seths (the erstwhile bankers) and their political reach, the fall of the Mughals, the power of money, the power equations transpiring between different players, and the multitudinous shades of greys that are visible across the board in all. Another takeaway is establishing the sequence of how events transpired to what they were, and how they were mostly the results of reactions of people on the ground rather than a well-formed plan.
Dalrymple ends by indicating how corporations have evolved into not needing expensive armies and navies to affect their conquests. They use big data, surveillance, lobbying and influence instead. He says the history of the East India Company has never been more relevant than it is today.