Mauryan India, as part of the People’s History of India series, covers the period from about 350 BC to about 185 BC, thereby encompassing the invasion of Alexander (327–325 BC) and the history of the Mauryan Empire (c.324–185 BC). There is a detailed account of the inscriptions of Ashoka and their significance. A picture of the economy, society and culture of the time follows, constructed out of the varied sources available, epigraphic, textual and archaeological. An effort is made throughout to keep the reader abreast of recent discoveries, and to share with him the reasons for all conclusions and inferences. There are special notes on Mauryan chronology, the date of the Arthashastra, the science of epigraphy, and the dialects of Ashokan Prakrit. As many as fifteen excerpts from Indian and Greek sources, including ten full edicts of Ashoka, are provided. There are nine maps (five of them exceptionally detailed) and twenty illustrations (black-and-white).
The volume is addressed to both the general reader and the student, and attempts to cover all topics that conventional textbooks include besides much other material that a ‘people’s history’ needs to be concerned with, such as economic life, technology, social structure, gender relations, modes of exploitation, language, varied aspects of culture, etc. It is hoped that it will be considered a readable addition to what has so far been written on the Mauryan Empire.
Irfan Habib is Professor Emeritus of History at the Aligarh Muslim University. He is the author of The Agrarian System of Mughal India, 1556–1707 (1963, revised edition 1999), An Atlas of the Mughal Empire (1982), Essays in Indian History: Towards a Marxist Perception (1995), Medieval India: The Study of a Civilization (2007), Economic History of Medieval India, 1200–1500 (with collaborators, 2011) and Atlas of Ancient Indian History (with Faiz Habib, 2012). He has co-edited The Cambridge Economic History of India, Vol. I, UNESCO’s History of Humanity, Vols. 4 and 5, and UNESCO’s History of Central Asia, Vol. 5. He is the General Editor of the People’s History of India series. He has published two monographs on modern Indian economic history and a study of certain aspects of the National Movement.