Top positive review
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Painstaking detailed history.
on 25 October 2015
This book provides a minutely detailed study of the rise and eventual atrophy of the East India Company. Keay offers a thorough, comprehensive, account of how, over 213 years, the Company developed from trading enterprise to arm of the British state. He carefully describes the intimate relationship between the Company's colossal wealth and the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries governing elites. By the time the reader reaches book's end we can understand how the East India Company became the first business too big to fail.
I would, however, only give this four stars rather than five. Keay's style of writing is often ponderous and convoluted. This can mean that sometimes the narrative is turgid rather than gripping. He also generally skirts over the motivations of the key actors in his story. Whilst there is an adequate summary of Warren Hastings' character, it would be helpful, both for the student and for the general reader, to appreciate more about what drove the actions of Robert Clive, Dundas and others. The book also lacks an adequate analysis of how the Company's operations had an impact on the territories it came to dominate.
This book was originally published in 1991 so there are now sure to be more diverse sources to enable another writer to tell a richer more nuanced history of the honourable company. No doubt readers who want to learn more about how the East India Company contributed to moulding the world will be looking forward to William Dalrymple's next book.