Rating: 5 out of 5
This is a great overview with insightful analysis — including the author noting times when other researchers disagree with him — that is also written in an enjoyable style. There’s very little missing from here, and my biggest item of confusion with this book was the timeline and what it would cover. After reading it, the way it is set up makes sense — during the read I was not as certain.
The overview is chronological and we start with the founding of the East India Company and move through the 18th century to the final Anglo-Mysore and Anglo-Maratha wars. The reader is brought to the secondary presidencies of Madras and Bombay only a few times in the course of the work up to the final chapter — and I kept on wondering why that was, until it became eminently clear that the EIC’s expansion was entirely driven from Bengal.
Another aspect of this book I really enjoyed was the depth to which Mr Dalrymple tried to describe the Indian background to various positions and areas. This wasn’t always successful, and it could have been smoother — including footnoting local titles, etc… — but it was nevertheless much better than many authors ever try.
There was much else praiseworthy such as tangents on local culture and arts, excerpts of Shah Alam II’s poetry, and other descriptions which tried to bring 18th century India close to the reader. This attempt alone makes this a worthy introduction into the time and place.