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The company’s relations with the British state had always been ambivalent.

The late 19th century witnessed a brief flowering of new European company-states.

In the early modern period, company-states had played significant roles in establishing transcontinental commercial and cultural connections, and as auxiliaries of various European empires.

In that region, too, myriad British private companies built up and financed railways, banks, roads and new business enterprises.

In the process, the British state – though it never had a substantial formal empire on that continent – secured an at times extensive influence there.

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