As you know from the previous chapter, the Indian subcontinent had long been a destination of European traders eager to get their hands on India's many luxuries, such as tea, sugar, silk, salt, and jute (an extremely strong fiber used for ropes). By the early eighteenth century, the Mughal Empire was in decline following decades of fighting wars and by renewed religious conflict between Muslims and Hindus. Lacking a strong leader and a unified people created an opening (as it so often does) for external powers to move in. And that is precisely what Britain and France decided to do.
In the 1750s, the rivalry between France and England reached fever pitch. During the Seven Years' War (more on it later), the two countries battled each other in three theaters: North America, Europe, and India. England won across the board. The British East India Company, a joint-stock company that operated like a multinational corporation with exclusive rights over British trade with India, then led in India by Robert Clive, raised an effective army that ridded the subcontinent of the French. During the next two decades, Clive successfully conquered the Bengal region (present-day Bangladesh), quite a feat given that the East India Company was a corporation. It wasn't British troops who conquered the region, but corporate troops! Over the next hundred years, the company took advantage of the weakening Mughals and set up administrative regions throughout the empire.