A depressing but expert account of the rise of the first great multinational corporation.




The often nasty history of the British company that grew to rule India in the 18th century.

Veteran historian Dalrymple (Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 2013, etc.) reminds readers that the Spice Islands, around what is now Indonesia, were a source of lucrative trade, dominated in the 16th century by the Dutch. In 1600, Queen Elizabeth granted envious British merchants a monopoly in the region. Ships of the fledgling East India Company made some profitable voyages, but the Dutch defended their territory violently. Consequently, Britons turned their attention to India, then an open market mostly ruled by the Mughal Empire, considered the wealthiest in the world. The EIC established thriving trading settlements along the coast and respected Mughal authority. Matters changed after 1707, when the last competent ruler died and the empire dissolved into chaos and war between ambitious men and principalities. This was no secret to the EIC, which began training its own armies and expanding its influence by taking sides. Perhaps the key event was the pugnacious Robert Clive’s 1757 victory at the Battle of Plassey, which gave the company control of Bengal, the richest province in India. The result, as characterized in Dalrymple’s unsparing account, was a feeding frenzy in which fortune-seeking Britons forcibly ejected native merchants and landowners, took over tax collection, and literally stripped the land bare. In 1770, Bengal suffered its first disastrous famine, and others followed. The author diligently recounts decades of violence (“the Anarchy”) that followed, ending just after 1800 with the defeat of the last local Indian potentate. “In less than fifty years,” writes Dalrymple, “a multinational corporation had seized control of almost all of what had once been Mughal India. The author concludes gloomily that the EIC has no exact modern equivalent, but Walmart, Apple, and other massive corporations do not need their own armies; governments are happy to protect their interests.

A depressing but expert account of the rise of the first great multinational corporation.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-395-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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