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The first prominent rulers of the northern part of the future Presidency were the Tamil Pandya dynasty (230 BC – AD 102).

Following the decline of the Pandyas and the Cholas, the country was conquered by a little known race of people called the Kalabhras.

By 1908, the province comprised twenty-two districts, each under a District Collector, and it was further sub-divided into taluks and firqas with villages making up the smallest unit of administration.

Following the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms of 1919, Madras was the first province of British India to implement a system of dyarchy, and thereafter its Governor ruled alongside a prime minister.

The Tamil and Telugu territories recovered under the Vijayanagar Empire, founded in 1336.

The last quarter of the 18th century was a period of rapid expansion.

In 1625, another factory was established at Armagon, a few miles to the south, whereupon both the factories came under the supervision of an agency based at Machilipatam.

The English authorities decided to relocate these factories further south, due to a shortage of cotton cloth, the main trade item of the east coast at the time.

In 1785, under the provisions of Pitt's India Act, Madras became one of three provinces established by the East India Company.

Thereafter, the head of the area was styled "Governor" rather than "President" and became subordinate to the Governor-General in Calcutta, a title that would persist until 1947.

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Subsequently, during the reign of King James I (1567–1625), Sir William Hawkins and Sir Thomas Roe were sent to negotiate with the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1569–1627) to permit the establishment of trading factories in India on behalf of the Company.