Research Handbook on the History of Corporate and Company Law
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Research Handbook on the History of Corporate and Company Law

Edited by Harwell Wells

Understanding the corporation means understanding its legal framework, but until recently the origins and evolution of corporate law have received relatively little attention. The topical chapters featured in this Research Handbook, contributed by leading scholars from around the world, examine the historical development of corporation and business organization law in the Americas, Europe, and Asia from the ancient world to modern times, providing an invaluable resource for both further historical research and scholars seeking the origins of present-day issues.
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Chapter 2: Business organizations in India prior to the British East India Company

Vikramaditya Khanna


Chapter 2 examines business organizations in India before the arrival of the British East India Company, focusing on the sreni, an organizational entity primarily engaged in business and commerce that flourished in the subcontinent for almost two millennia (800 BCE to 1000 CE). Study of the sreni is warranted not only because of its use across a long and understudied span of history, but because its development sheds light on factors identified as relevant to the development of European business organizations, such as increasing trade, the need to contain agency costs, and methods to engage in asset partitioning and entity shielding. The history of the sreni shows sophisticated attempts to address agency costs and incentive effects, as well as considerable agility in adapting to changing business conditions. And, Vic Khanna shows, while the sreni faded after 1000 CE, it had lasting effects on business in the subcontinent and may have impacted Mughal institutions in ways that had important repercussions for later economic growth.

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