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C.H. Alexandrowicz's India and the Kautilyan Moment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 May 2024

University of California Berkeley, United States


This article addresses the international legal historian C.H. Alexandrowicz's engagement with Kautilya's Arthashastra as part of his revision of the place of India and Southeast Asia in the development of international law. The article locates Alexandrowicz's writing on the Arthashastra against the backdrop of the debates about the Arthashastra that ensued upon its discovery in 1905, including controversies about its date, authorship, and place in the tradition of Indian political thought. The article reviews the Indian nationalist reading of Kautilya, the various attempts to compare Kautilya to Hobbes and Machiavelli, and the values that were particularly important for Alexandrowicz in telling the narrative of the place of Kautilya's Arthashastra, its rationalism, secularism, and the divisibility of sovereignty.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Asian Society for International Law

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1 ARMITAGE, David and PITTS, Jennifer, “‘This Modern Grotius’: An Introduction to the Life and Thought of C.H. Alexandrowicz”, in ALEXANDROWICZ, C.H., The Law of Nations in Global History (ARMITAGE, David and PITTS, Jennifer, eds., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)Google Scholar [Law of Nations], 1 at 10; ALEXANDROWICZ, C.H., “The Role of German Treaty Making in the Partition of Africa”, (1980) 18 Indian Year Book of International Affairs 161Google Scholar, Law of Nations, at 303. For a broad intellectual analysis of Alexandrowicz's international legal history, see Armitage and Pitts, “This Modern Grotius”; LANDAUER, Carl, “The Polish Rider: CH Alexandrowicz and the Reorientation of International Law, Part 1: Madras Studies”, (2019) 7 London Review of International Law 321CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and LANDAUER, Carl, “The Polish Rider: CH Alexandrowicz and the Reorientation of International Law, Part II: Declension and the Promise of Renewal”, (2021) 9 London Review of International Law 3CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 RAO, T.S. Rama, “Professor C.H. Alexandrowicz: A Tribute”, (1980) 18 Indian Year Book of International Affairs viiiGoogle Scholar.

3 Ibid., at ix.

4 For a modern translation of the Arthashastra, see Patrick OLIVELLE, ed. and transl., King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India: Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

5 LORCA, Arnulf BECKER, Mestizo International Law: A Global Intellectual History 1842–1933 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) at 33Google Scholar, citing ALEXANDROWICZ, C.H., An Introduction to the History of the Law of Nations in the East Indies (16th, 17th and 18th Centuries) (London: Oxford University Press, 1967) at 224Google Scholar.

6 BAXI, Upendra, “New Approaches to the History of International Law”, (2008) 19 Leiden Journal of International Law 555Google Scholar.

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8 WHEATLEY, Natasha, The Life and Death of States: Central Europe and the Transformation of Modern Sovereignty (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023) at 259, 262Google Scholar.

9 For biographical information, see Armitage and Pitts, supra note 1 at 3–12; RAO, supra note 2; PARRY, Clive, “Professor Charles Alexandrowicz”, (1975) 49 Australian Law Journal 644Google Scholar; and STEINER, W.A., “Charles Henry Alexandrowicz 1902–1975”, (1975) 47 British Yearbook of International Law 269Google Scholar.

10 BAINS, J.S., “Teaching of International Law in India”, (1961) 1 Indian Journal of International Law 498, at 500Google Scholar.

11 ALEXANDROWICZ, Charles Henry, ed., A Bibliography of Indian Law (London: Oxford University Press, 1958)Google Scholar.

12 ALEXANDROWICZ, Charles Henry, Constitutional Developments in India (London: Oxford University Press, 1957)Google Scholar.

13 During the interwar period, Alexandrowicz worked in the Bank of Poland. During the Bucharest exile of a faction of the Polish government, he worked on the Commission for the Protection of State Property and chaired the Legal Affairs Committee, and he was acting governor of the Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego. In 1943, when he wrote a short curriculum vitae for the Polish Government in exile, he was a member of the Legislative Works Committee and the committee to draft Poland's economic plan as well as being a member of the Polish-Yugoslav Committee of Economic Experts. Following the war, Alexandrowicz was the chairman of the European Central Inland Transport Organization, which was an early development organization for postwar Europe that focused on the logistics of the train systems. See Armitage and Pitts, supra note 1 at 4–6; and C.H. ALEXANDROWICZ, “Curriculum Vitae” (23 May 1943), Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum, London, A.48.2.IX/12. [I am grateful to Jennifer Pitts for providing me a copy of the curriculum vitae.]

14 This includes two books, ALEXANDROWICZ, Charles Henry, International Economic Organisations (London: Stevens & Sons Limited, 1952)Google Scholar; ALEXANDROWICZ, Charles Henry, World Economic Agencies: Law and Practice (London: Stevens & Sons Limited, 1962)Google Scholar.

15 C.H. ALEXANDROWICZ, “Kautilyan Principles and the Law of Nations”, (1965–66) 41 British Yearbook of International Law 301, reprinted in Alexandrowicz, supra note 1 at 35.

16 Charles H. ALEXANDROWICZ, “Treaty and Diplomatic Relations between European and South Asian Powers in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries”, Académie de Droit International, (1960) 100 Recueil des Cours 203. On the use of “East Indies”, Alexandrowicz wrote in his East Indies book that it “is intended to cover the subcontinent of India as well as ‘Further India’ including Ceylon, Burma, Siam and the Indonesian Islands. It also extends in a wider sense to Persia, particularly in connexion with her commercial and strategic position in the Persian Gulf.” See Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 1.

17 Alexandrowicz, supra note 16 at 215.

18 Ibid.

19 J.F. FLEET, “Introductory Note”, in R. SHAMASASTRY, ed. and trans., Kautilya's Arthaśāstra (Mysore: Mysore Printing & Publishing House, 1915), vi.

20 Johannes H. VOIGT, “Nationalist Interpretations of Arthaśāstra in Indian Historical Writing”, in S.N. MUKHERJEE, ed., South Asian Affairs, Number Two: The Movement for National Freedom in India (London, Oxford University Press, 1966) at 46; MISRA, Maria, “The Indian Machiavelli: Pragmatism Versus Morality, and the Reception of the Arthashastra in India, 1905–2014” (2016) 50 Modern Asian Studies 310CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 BANDYOPADHYAY, Pramathanath, International Law and Custom in Ancient India (Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, 1920)Google Scholar.

22 VISWANATHA, S.V., International Law in Ancient India (Bombay: Longmans, Green & Co., 1925)Google Scholar.

23 For a broad analysis of twentieth-century Indian readings of India's ancient inter-polity law, including the Mahabharata, the Code of Manu, and Kautilya, see Carl LANDAUER, “Twentieth-Century Indian Historiography of Ancient Interpolity Law”, in Maria Adele CARRAI and Surabhi RANGANATHAN, eds., The Cambridge History of International Law: International Law in the Asian Region (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

24 Max WEBER, “The Politician's Work”, in Max WEBER, Charisma and Disenchantment: The Vocation Lectures (Paul REITTER and Chad WELLMON, eds., Damion SEARLS, trans., New York: New York Review Books, 2020), 43 at 108.

25 See Eric WILSON, “The ‘Alexandrowicz Thesis’ Revisited: Hugo Grotius, Divisible Sovereignty, and Private Avengers within the Indian Ocean World System”, in Ooi Keat GIN and Hoáng Anh TUÂN, eds., Early Modern Southeast Asia, 1350–1800 (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), 28.

26 Alexandrowicz, “German Treaty Making”, supra note 1 at 334.

27 ALEXANDROWICZ, C.H., “Le Droit des Nations aux Indes Orientales: Aux XVIe, XVIIe, XVIIIe siècles”, (1964) 19 Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 869, 1066Google Scholar, reprinted in Law of Nations, supra note 1, at 83.

28 Alexandrowicz, supra note 16 at 208.

29 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 14.

30 Ibid., at 224.

31 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 44.

34 Alexandrowicz, supra note 16 at 251.

35 See Alexandrowicz, supra note 27, at 83; J.C. VAN LEUR, Indonesian Trade and Society: Essays in Asian Social and Economic History (Dordrecht: Foris Publications, 1983; originally 1955).

36 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 61.

37 Alexandrowicz, supra note 16 at 241.

38 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 39.

39 Ibid., at 45–46.

40 Ibid., at 45.

41 Ibid., at 46.

42 Ibid., at 39.

43 Alexandrowicz, supra note 16 at 215.

46 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 45.

47 Ibid., at 51.

48 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 229.

49 Ibid.

51 Ibid., at 65.

52 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 35.

53 Ibid., at 38.

54 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 28.

55 R. SHAMASASTRY, “Preface”, in Shamasastry, supra note 19 at vii.

57 Mark MCCLISH, The History of the Arthaśāstra: Sovereignty and Sacred Law in Ancient India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019) at 39.

58 Kâlidâs NÂG, Les théories diplomatiques de l'Inde ancienne et l'Arthaçâstra (Paris: Maisonneuve Frères, 1923) at 115 (“un examin soigneux des différentes parties du texte nous oblige à déclarer leur hypothèse insuotenable”).

59 Ibid., at 116.

60 R.P. KANGLE, The Kautilīya Arthaśāstra, Part I, Sanskrit Text with a Glossary (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishing House, 1960); The Kautilīya Arthaśāstra, Part II, Translation with Critical and Explanatory Notes (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishing House, 1963); The Kautilīya Arthaśāstra, Part III, A Study (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishing House, 1965).

61 Kangle, Part III, A Study, ibid., at 107–8.

62 Ibid., at 69.

64 LINGAT, Robert, The Classical Law of India (J. Duncan M. DERRETT, ed. and trans., New Delhi: Oxford University Press 1998; originally 1973) at 146Google Scholar.

65 A.B. KEITH, “The Authenticity of the Kautilya”, (1916) Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 136–37, quoted in McClish, supra note 57 at 38.

66 McClish, supra note 57 at 24.

67 Ibid., at 45.

68 Ibid., at 25–26.

69 Ibid., at 26.

70 Ibid., at 27.

71 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 36, nn 5.

72 Ibid. at 39, nn 18.

73 GHOSHAL, U., A History of Hindu Political Theories. From the Earliest Times to the End of the First Quarter of the Seventeenth Century A.D. (London: Oxford University Press, 1923) at 70Google Scholar.

74 Ibid., at 71.

75 GHOSHAL, U.N., A History of Indian Political Ideas: The Ancient Period and the Period of Transition to the Middle Ages (London: Oxford University Press, 1959) at 111Google Scholar.

77 ALTEKAR, A.S., State and Government in Ancient India, 3rd ed. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1958; originally 1949) at 14Google Scholar.

79 See, e.g., SASTRI, K.A. Nilakanta, “International Law and Relations in Ancient India” (1952) 1 Indian Year Book of International Affairs 97Google Scholar; and SASTRI, K.A. Nilakanta, “Inter-State Relations in Asia” (1953) 2 Indian Year Book of International Affairs 133Google Scholar.

80 K.A. Nilakanta SASTRI, ed., Age of the Nandas and Mauryas, 2nd ed. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1967; originally 1951) at 3.

81 See McClish, supra note 57 at 19; Voigt, supra note 20 at 48.

82 McClish, supra note 57 at 19.

83 Voigt, supra note 20 at 57, citing B.K. SARKAR, The Political Institutions and Theories of the Hindus: A Study in Comparative Politics (Leipzig: Verlag Von Markert & Petters, 1922) at 173. Voigt discusses Narendra Nath Law's Studies in Ancient Hindu Polity, which was published on the propitious year of 1914. Interestingly, if you read Radhakumud Mookerji's introductory essay to Law's book, he expressed his nationalist pride by asserting that “[t]he system of polity as revealed in the Arthasâstra is complete in all aspects and details, and exhibits those features which are characteristic of India”. And he could make the claim that “when we find that all these familiar problems have been treated in the Arthaśāstra—problems which are still exercising the British Government of India at the present day—we cannot but discover the operation of an evolutionary process which is ultimately governing the development of Indian administration through Hindu, Mahomedan and modern times”. See Radhakumud MOOKERJI, “An Introductory Essay on the Age and Authenticity of the Arthasastra of Kautilya”, in Narendra Nath LAW, Studies in Ancient Hindu Polity (Based on the Arthaśāstra of Kautilya) (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1914) at xliv.

84 Misra, supra note 20.

85 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at vii.

86 Ibid., at 4, quoting and translating JANET, Paul, Histoire de la science politique dans ses rapports avec la morale, Vol. I (Paris: Hachette Livre BnF, 1887) at 26Google Scholar.

87 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at 8, quoting WILLOUGHBY, Westel Woodbury, The Political Theories of the Ancient World (London & Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1903) at14Google Scholar.

88 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at 9, quoting DUNNING, William Archibald, History of Political Theories Ancient and Mediaeval (London: Macmillan Company, 1902) at xixCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

89 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at 12.

90 Ibid., at 58.

91 Ghoshal, supra note 75 at vii.

92 Ibid., at 5.

93 Ibid., at 112.

94 Bandyopadhyay, supra note 21 at 2.

95 Ibid., at 3.

96 Ibid., at 3–4.

97 Ibid., at 4.

98 Viswanatha, supra note 22 at v.

99 Ibid., at 10–11.

100 Ibid., at 11.

101 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 36.

102 Ibid., at 36–37. Note that these were discussion points rather than conclusions. However, Alexandrowicz wrote in a footnote that the Seminar concluded that third-party judgment did not exist in ancient India. Ibid., at 37, nn 9. In addition, non-violence was “quite alien to Indian tradition and practice” although it “tended to be respected in Jainist and Buddhist practice”. Ibid., at 37, nn 10.

103 Ibid., at 36, nn 8, citing DERRETT, J.D.M., “Report of the Seminar”, (1962) 11 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 266Google Scholar.

104 Ibid., citing DERRETT, J.D.M., “Maintenance of Peace in the Hindu World: Practice and Theory”, (1958) 7 Indian Year Book of International Affairs 361Google Scholar.

105 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 37.

106 Ibid.

107 Ibid.

108 SINGH, Nagendra, India and International Law (Delhi: S Chand & Co., 1969)Google Scholar.

109 SINGH, Nagendra, Juristic Concepts of Ancient Indian Polity (New Delhi: Vision Books, 1980) at 98Google Scholar. There were certainly other scholars tying Kautilya to modern international legal principles. See, e.g., T.M.P. MAHADEVAN, “Kautilya on the Sanctity of Pacts”, (1956) 5 Indian Year Book of International Affairs 342, in which Mahadevan described the principle but, knowing the common views of Kautilya, opened with “[i]t may be least expected of Kautilya that he should lay emphasis on the inviolability of pacts entered into by parties either individuals or states”. Ibid., at 342.

110 Singh, supra note 108 at 16.

111 Ibid., at 72.

112 For a broad analysis of Singh's India and International Law, see Carl LANDAUER, “Passage from India: Nagendra Singh's India and International Law”, (2016) 56 Indian Journal of International Law 265.

113 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at 170–71, citing Santiparvan, LXVII. 2, 3, 5, 14–15, 16.

114 Altekar, supra note 77 at 27.

115 Ibid.

116 Ibid., at 27–28.

117 SPELLMAN, John W., Political Theory of Ancient India: A Study of Kingship from the Earliest Times to Circa A.D. 300 (London: Oxford University Press, 1964) at 4Google Scholar.

118 Ibid., at 5.

119 Ibid.

120 CHATTERJEE, Hiralal, International Law and Inter-State Relations in Ancient India (Calcutta: Firma KL Mukhopadhyay, 1958) at 14Google Scholar

121 Ibid..

122 Ibid.

123 Ibid.., at 14–15.

124 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 39, nn 15. Ironically, Alexandrowicz did not point out here that, despite the long process to sovereignty, Hinsley identified a sharp difference between “segmentary states” and true sovereignty. All the ways in which sovereignty could be divisible for Alexandrowicz were alien to Hinsley's account. See F.H. HINSLEY, Sovereignty, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986; originally 1966) at 17–18.

125 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 38.

126 Ibid.

127 Ibid.

128 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 225. Here he cites Sastri, “International Law and Relations in Ancient India”, supra note 79, at 103–4.

129 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 225, nn 4.

130 Ibid., at 225–26.

131 Ibid., at 226. David Armitage does a wonderful job of placing Hobbes in the tradition of the idea of civil strife. See ARMITAGE, David, Civil Wars: A History of Ideas (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017)Google Scholar.

132 BOESCHE, Roger, The First Great Political Realist: Kautilya and His Arthashastra (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2002) at 34Google Scholar.

133 Ibid., at 34–35.

134 Ibid., at 35.

135 Ibid., at 30–31.

136 Ibid., at 2.

137 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at 148.

138 Boesche, supra note 132 at 45.

139 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 52.

140 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at 155.

141 Weber, supra note 24 at 108. On Machiavelli himself, there have been decades, or rather centuries, of debate on the evilness, immorality, and amorality of Machiavelli. In an evocative recent book, Erica Benner argues, with a close study of language, rhetorical traditions, and other methods, that Machiavelli's Prince has to be interpreted as ironic in frame. See BENNER, Erica, Machiavelli's Prince: A New Reading (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

142 Viswanatha, supra note 22 at 124.

143 Ibid.

144 Nâg, supra note 58 at 114.

145 Singh, supra note 108 at 16.

146 Ibid.

147 Ibid.

148 Ibid., at 17.

149 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at 155.

150 Ibid.

151 Ibid., at 156.

152 Ibid

153 Ibid.

154 Ghoshal, supra note 75 at 150.

155 Ibid., at 153.

156 Ibid.

157 Ibid., at 153–54.

158 Ghoshal, supra note 73 at 107.

159 Ghoshal, supra note 75 at 132–33.

160 Alexandrowicz, supra note 12.

161 POCOCK, J.G.A., The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton & London: Princeton University Press, 1975)Google Scholar, see especially viii-ix.

162 Alexandrowicz, supra note 16 at 215.

163 Ibid., at 215, nn 10.

164 Ibid., at 215.

165 Ibid.

166 Ibid.

167 Ghoshal, supra note 75 at 94.

168 Ibid.

169 Ibid.

170 GULICK, Edward Vose, Europe's Classical Balance of Power: A Case History of the Theory and Practice of One of the Great Concepts of European Statecraft (New York: WW Norton & Company, 1967; originally 1955) at 10Google Scholar.

171 Ibid., at 40.

172 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 226.

173 Ibid.

174 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 50.

175 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 226.

176 Ibid.

177 Hedley BULL, “The Importance of Grotius in the Study of International Relations”, in Hedley BULL, Benedict KINGSBURY and Adam ROBERTS, eds., Hugo Grotius and International Relations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), 65 at 83.

178 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 225–26.

179 Alexandrowicz, supra note 15 at 38.

180 Ibid., at 51.

181 Alexandrowicz, supra note 5 at 231.

182 Ibid., at 226.

183 ALEXANDROWICZ, C.H., “Is India a Federation?”, (1954) 3 The International and Comparative Law Quarterly 393CrossRefGoogle Scholar, in Alexandrowicz, Law of Nations, supra note 1 at 211.

184 Alexandrowicz, supra note 12 at 149 (chapter on “Indian Federalism”).

185 LASKI, Harold J., The Foundations of Sovereignty and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921) at viGoogle Scholar.

186 On Laski and Menon, see, for example, RAMESH, Jairam, A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon (Gurgaon, India: Penguin Random House, 2019) at 358Google Scholar.

187 Alexandrowicz, supra note 13.

188 See WOLFF, Larry, The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

189 See KHAN, Yasmin, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007)Google Scholar. Among writings relating to the violence, it is worth noting Khushwant SINGH's 1956 novel, Train to Pakistan (New York: Grove Press, 1981; originally 1956).

190 Alexandrowicz, supra note 12 at 33.

191 Ibid., at 33–34.

192 HARRISON, Selig S., India: The Most Dangerous Decades (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

193 See, e.g., Jerzy LUKOWSKI and Hubert ZAWADZKI, A Concise History of Poland, 3rd edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019) at 279 (“Independence Regained and Lost, 1914–1945”).

194 NYS, Thomas and WIJZE, Stephen de, eds., The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Evil (London and New York: Routledge, 2019) at 55, 70CrossRefGoogle Scholar.