For the first century-and-a-half of its nearly 275 year existence, the English East India Company remained ostensibly a mercantile enterprise, satisfied to simply trade, competing with other European traders. In the middle of the eighteenth century, as a response to French expansion in India, the East India Company redefined itself, becoming an active participant in India's `game of thrones'. Through the use of its military might, only tentatively supported by the English Crown and Parliament, the Company dominated trade, became a king-maker, and ultimately a colonial administrator over much of the Indian Subcontinent. The Company had become a state in the guise of a merchant. The Company consolidated its position in Bengal, then began to exert its power by toppling local potentates and absorbing one princely state after another. Confronted with a land system that was built on custom and tradition, and not law, with no tradition of land ownership, the British were forced to formulate a new land tenure and revenue system for India, one based on British principles of property. Permanent Settlement was the new government's first attempt at creating a new revenue system. Through its creation, for the first time, private property rights were conferred on the formerly non-landowning zamindars. Which, as this authoritative volume notes in turn, created a land market, destabilizing the political and social structure of India irretrievably.