During the first century or so of the East India Company’s existence it employed a few hundred soldiers as guards for its trading stations and possessions in transit. Great expansion of its armed force began under Clive; by the early 1760s it had 26,000 men under arms and by 1778 its army numbered 67,000. With such a force the Company could, and did, fight a number of wars to enhance its territorial holdings and offer protection to weaker Indian states. It also had the naval capacity to defeat its European rivals. But the British government became increasingly concerned by the conduct of the Company, especially in the treatment of the peoples falling under its control. Various regulations were passed by Parliament in 1773, 1784, 1786 and 1793, all aimed at some kind of responsible order in the Company’s operations. By 1795 one-fifth of the world’s population came under its trading influence, although the majority of the sub-continent’s territory was still dominated by the Maratha Confederacy, a conglomeration of warrior rulers, whose empire dated back to 1674. In 1775 the East India Company had intervened in a family succession struggle in Pune, leading to the First Anglo-Maratha War, and Maratha victory. The stage was set for further conflict.
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