As the debate over historical antecedents to contemporary forms of lex mercatoria suggests, the nature of legal authority appears to be changing into a less familiar, more pluralistic form, even as states struggle to reassert their power. In seeking to understand this transformation in—and decentering of—the modern state's authority, we consider the multiple sources of legal authority claimed by the East India Company (1600–1757) and the way in which it positioned its legal and political legitimacy in relation to multiple and often competing centers of power in India. This article proposes the notion that the hegemony of a centralized modern state belongs only to a narrow sliver of history, hiding a much deeper pluralism within global history. In so doing, this article sets the stage for a sustained consideration of the plural nature of authority in the waxing and waning phases of the modern state.

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