The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit. It identifies its author by the names ‘Kauṭilya’ and ‘Vishnugupta’, both names that are traditionally identified with Chanakya (c. 350–283 BC), who was a scholar at Takshashila and the teacher and guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Empire. The text was influential until the 12th century, when it disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1904 by R. Shamasastry, who published it in 1909. The first English translation was published in 1915.
Roger Boesche describes the Arthaśāstra as “a book of political realism, a book analysing how the political world does work and not very often stating how it ought to work, a book that frequently discloses to a king what calculating and sometimes brutal measures he must carry out to preserve the state and the common good.”
Centrally, Arthaśāstra argues how in an autocracy an efficient and solid economy can be managed. It discusses the ethics of economics and the duties and obligations of a king. The scope of Arthaśāstra is, however, far wider than statecraft, and it offers an outline of the entire legal and bureaucratic framework for administering a kingdom, with a wealth of descriptive cultural detail on topics such as mineralogy, mining and metals, agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine and the use of wildlife. The Arthaśāstra also focuses on issues of welfare (for instance, redistribution of wealth during a famine) and the collective ethics that hold a society together.