In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam and forced him to establish in his richest provinces a new administration run by English merchants who collected taxes through means of a ruthless private army - what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation.
The East India Company's founding charter authorised it to "wage war" and it had always used violence to gain its ends. But the creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional international trading corporation dealing in silks and spices and became something much more unusual an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. In less than four decades it had trained up a security force of around 200,000 men - twice the size of the British army - and had subdued an entire subcontinent, conquering first Bengal and finally, in 1803, the Mughal capital of Delhi itself.
The Company's reach that stretched until almost all of India south of the Himalayas was effectively ruled from a boardroom in London.
William Dalrymple, the acclaimed historian and art historian, is the bestselling author of the Wolfson Prize-winning "White Mughals", "The Last Mughal", which won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Hemingway and Kapuscinski Prize-winning "Return of a King". A frequent broadcaster, he has written and presented three television series, one of which won the Grierson Award for Best Documentary Series at BAFTA. He has also won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award, the Foreign Correspondent of the Year at the FPA Media Awards, and been awarded five honorary doctorates. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and has held visiting fellowships at Princeton and Brown.