In 1904, a copy of an ancient book which had been lost for more than 1400 years was discovered in India. A modest book written on palm leaves, its outward appearance was proven to be deceiving as the book contained surprisingly detailed information on how an effective government should be run, treating wide-ranging topics from war, diplomacy, law, taxation, agriculture, how to manage secret agents, when it is useful to violate treaties, even when to kill family members.
It was a copy of a book that was written by Kautilya (350-275 BCE), a minister of the Mauryan empire. Called Arthashastra, commonly translated as “The Science of Material Gain”, the book is a major classic of diplomacy even to this day. Within this category, it is one of the most complete works of antiquity. T
The Arthashastra. (CC BY-SA 4.0)
his leads to many questions about this extraordinary book’s origins. How did it come about? How did one man have so much detailed knowledge of every aspect of an empire? How could one book make any difference in its time? The answers to these questions bring us to a unique time in Indian history and introduce us to two very strong figures in the philosophy of governance.
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