The East India Company (EIC) was uniquely a European joint-stock commercial corporation which conquered and ruled as the colonial power over diverse peoples and cultures in South Asia, ambiguously recognizing both British and Mughal sovereignty. As the EIC entered the contested world of South Asia, it creatively synthesized its military forces, incorporating and adapting pre-existing military cultures, practices and manpower from both India and Europe. South Asia had a strikingly diverse military history from long before the EIC began to construct its armies. After some London merchants secured in 1600 Queen Elizabeth's royal charter for the monopoly on English trade in the East Indies, the EIC began sending armed merchant ships to India's major ports. While the EIC's armies were developing in India, its directors in London were following their own attitudes, policies and practices concerning race. Both Indian and British conceptions of race and what that should mean for military service proved highly contingent and inconsistent.