FEW, if any, locals will have registered the anniversary of the Battle of Plassey.

It may not loom large on anyone’s calendar, but those who seek insight into the racial rumblings around white insensitivity that underlie a sense of historic grievance among non-whites might refer to a recent book by a local lad made good – William Dalrymple, historian, author, recipient of many awards and youngest son of the late and much-missed Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple of North Berwick.

‘The Anarchy’ is a long-overdue investigation of the behaviour of the East India Company (EIC) between 1757 and 1803. It covers a part of British history that was once dinned into every school pupil as a glorious example of Britain bringing prosperity, justice and enlightenment to those unfortunates unfamiliar with cricket and how to handle cutlery.

For its first 150 years, the EIC traded timidly with the mighty Mughal Empire from small trading posts clinging to the Indian coast.

Under the pretence of keeping out the French, this private company, run by a handful of directors in London, built an empire entirely on profit.

Seeing the Mughals weakened by repeated Afghan invasions, it took only one man to kick the door in. That man was Robert Clive and the kick was the Battle of Plassey.

The book documents how a refined culture of song and poetry, that already manufactured a quarter of the world’s goods, could be brutally pillaged in less than 50 years by a company driven towards glory by greed.

Three months’ sea voyage from any authority, the company’s agents focussed on profit. It is no coincidence that the word ‘loot’, unknown in England before 1750, should become common currency at this time.

The EIC repatriated £210 million in modern value to England from Bengal in one year.

This does not include £20 million trousered by Clive for his troubles.

The racket would spread virulently across India until nationalised into the Raj by an embarrassed British government in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny it caused.

William may have had a personal interest as an ancestor from North Berwick (Stair Dalrymple) died in the Black Hole of Calcutta, but this is a solid, balanced piece of work, meticulously researched from the National Archives of India.

It is also an insight into how dismissive of natives and their culture the British became, perhaps to compensate the national ego, bruised by the loss of the American colonies around the same time that will be celebrated this Saturday.