For an earlier generation of historians, the Mauryan state symbolized the grandeur of the 'first Indian empire'. Such a perception was based on a reading of Kautilya'sArthasastra which speaks of a powerful monarch, a centralized bureaucracy, and an all-pervasive political domain. But recent studies have sought to question these grand claims, showing how the reality of state-formation was much more complicated and little exists to indicate such all-encompassing political control. This course seeks to introduce students to the debates surrounding the Mauryan state, but will also focus on reading the sources of this period. Using the edicts of Ashoka as a focal point, we will discuss issues such as the the interaction between state and society, the nature of politics and propaganda, the archaeological remnants of 'empires', and the spread of religious and cultural influences across the South Asian region and beyond.