Computation in the Arthaśāstra

Mark McClish*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya (ca. first century BCE-third century CE) is the most important source on state administration from classical India. Its far-ranging instructions on state activities depict an ideal-typical kingdom heavily reliant on computation, particularly with respect to state finances. Nevertheless, computational practices themselves are little discussed, and no general study of them in the Arthaśāstra yet exists. This chapter is a primarily philological effort to frame an initial inquiry into such practices in the text through a study of the terms through which computation is expressed or implied. After introducing the Arthaśāstra, I examine: 1. various means of assigning value as laid out in the text (including an overview of mensuration in the Arthaśāstra); 2. some of the most prevalent numerical operations and procedures; 3. the use of these in a few examples of state activities; and 4. how computation was conceived among other evaluative activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWhy the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages44
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameWhy the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter
ISSN (Print)2662-9933
ISSN (Electronic)2662-9941

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science


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