Manu S Pillai in Scroll.in:
William Dalrymple’s latest book, The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, And The Pillage Of An Empire, covers a vast arc in tracing the Company’s life and times in India, uncovering in the process a narrative of corporate power and its relationship to the State that seems uncannily familiar in the 21st Century. It is, of course, only the latest in a line of distinguished – and highly popular – works on aspects of Indian history. Dalrymple spoke to Manu Pillai, whose own books on Indian history have gained great popularity. Excerpts from the conversation:
Your previous books are all much more focused – on shorter periods of time with a more taut canvas, for example. With The Anarchy, you seem to have produced a “big picture” book. Why now and why this larger history of the East India Company and, essentially, the eighteenth century?
You’ve put your finger exactly on it. I’ve written three micro-histories already of particular moments in the history of the Company: White Mughals is just ten years in the history of Hyderabad, 1795 to 1805. The Last Mughal is three years in the history of Delhi, 1856 to 58. And Return of a King is three years in the history of Afghanistan, 1839 to 42. The advantage there is that if you take a tiny time-slice like that, it allows you to really get into the character, really get to know the period, and present them for readers.