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Discourses Paperback – May 1, 1984


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Discourses + Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, 4th Ed. + City of God (Penguin Classics)
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (May 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444285
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Italian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a Florentine statesman who was later forced out of public life. He then devoted himself to studying and writing political philosophy, history, fiction, and drama.


More About the Author

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was born in Florence. He served the Florentine republic as a secretary and second chancellor, but was expelled from public life when the Medici family returned to power in 1512.His most famous work, The Prince, was written in an attempt to gain favour with the Medicis and return to politics.

Customer Reviews

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The nature of mankind For Machiavelli, men are more prone to evil than to good.
Luc REYNAERT
The truth of the matter is that Machiavelli was quite brilliant, logical and very reasonable in his thinking.
Jim Altfeld
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in history, management, or politics.
Genevieve Talavera

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Baird on September 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
These are Machiavelli's essays on the lessons to be learned from Titus Livy's first ten books about Roman history. Though other works existed, Machiavelli chose Livy's histories because Livy was an eye witness to the fall of the Roman Republic.
Machiavelli's purpose for writing The Discourses can be summed up in one line: "The multitude is wiser and more constant than a prince." More to-the-point, however is the later phraise: "A corrupt and disorderly multitude can be spoken to by some worthy person and can easily be brought around to the right way, but a bad prince cannot be spoken to by anyone, and the only remedy for his case is COLD STEEL."
With every stroke of his pen, Machiavelli sets out to prove the superiority of a republican form of government. He values freedom of the citizenry above all else, and provides princes everywhere with grizzly tales of what happens when it is restricted. His influence on the Founding Fathers, and particularly on the works of Paine and Jefferson, is evident. Our current leaders would find themselves more secure if they stuck to Machiavelli's principles.
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49 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Phil Swanwick on October 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Machiavelli's second most famous work, this book deals with the author's commentary on the way the Roman Republic was run and why it was so successful in expanding its borders. He stresses the reason it was so stable and successful was the solid core of reasonable laws, a standing army of professional soldiers and plunder/tribute from surrounding countries.
He illustrates the ways in which the good ideas of the ancient Romans could be applied in contemporary politics (it was written during the XVI century).
Unlike the Prince, which propandasizes his personal political opinions and describes the ideal ruler, the Discourses deal mainly with mundane economic and social issues, with little personal opinion.
It is filled with anecdotes about the lives of interesting or exceptional Romans and is not that difficult a read at all. In reading it for my first-year history class, I found it was a very good summary of the complicated life of the Roman Republic (it deals very little with the time of the Empire).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Dale on February 24, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
THIS IS ABOUT the edition with Ninian Hill Thomson as the translator. i returned it, which is exceedingly rare for me, because the table of contents lacked the descriptive notations and there was no commentary or introductory analysis with the edition. the book itself is also in a cumbersome format, but that could have been excused. i sent it back and bought the modern library edition (prince and discourses combined) instead.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although much can be learned from modern writers about the history of Italy, the sentiments and evaluations of politicians and historians of this period (sixteenth century) are unique to their day. It is wonderful to read Machiavelli's evaluation of Livy's historical accounts and see why certain actions which would be shunned by modern writers made perfect sense then. Such accounts help the reader not to be trapped in his own day's thought processes, but have an expanded scope of history. Very enlightening!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rafael on March 4, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd recommend this book to anyone who might've enjoyed books like Sun Tzu's "Art of War" or Robert Greene's "The 48 Laws of Power" or even someone who is even religious (Muslim, Christian, etc.) who might not be too afraid of understanding the perspective of a politician. I mix in religion because, perhaps to someone who subscribes to a more "pious" take on life, Machiavelli may hold a severely secular stigma. But this book may offer an alternative, if even more secular, view on the decisions made by religious/state leaders like Moses and Muhammad. As for those who also are into government conspiracy theories I'd also recommend this book- mix it with what you already think and you may come up with some more original theories of your own! ;)
Machiavelli comes across as a learned observer of mankind and expresses a rare understanding of the continual state of flux of mankind. Through his studies of history and in comparing past events to "present" (circa 1500s) ones Machiavelli makes strongly supported arguments throughout the discourses. Where Robert Greene falls short in "48 Laws" I believe is Machiavelli's stronger point- applying the [quite helpful] description of the characteristics of the parties involved which helps the reader summate the outcomes [of many of the events that are described throughout his discourses] right along with the reading. "48 Laws" does this well at times but falls short of this fluidity with many of his examples which can leave a certain level of disparity between the example(s) given and the "Law" to which it applies.
In summary I'd note that this is one of the few books that I wish didn't finish. I don't agree with him on every point, but I admire the proofs to his arguments on every page.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on December 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
The 16th century Florentine statesman Niccolò Machiavelli is mostly known for his work "The Prince", arguably the most ill-reputed book ever written, perhaps apart from Hitler's "Mein Kampf". However, "The Prince" seems to have been a purely empirical study of Italian politics, or perhaps even a rhetorical exercise. In other words, Machiavelli didn't really mean it! At least that's one possible interpretation (yes, the most charitable one).

So what were Machiavelli's real positions? Many scholars believe that these are laid out in "The Discourses", a work almost unknown to the general public. Its full title is "Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy". Using the ancient Roman Republic as his model, Machiavelli attempts to analyze the role of fortune and virtue in history, the art of war, and the best system of government. There are certain similarities between "The Discourses" and "The Prince". Both works contain their fair share of pragmatic Realpolitik. On the whole, however, "The Discourses" show Machiavelli in a much better light than "The Prince". Machiavelli actually turns out to be an advocate of a democratic republic! Indeed, since Machiavelli supported the republican side during the political conflicts in Florence, it's safe to assume that *this* is the real Machiavelli.

"The Discourses" is not a particularly systematic work. It contains no fully worked-out political theory, and suffers from bad editing. (Machiavelli even admits this in his foreword.) The most interesting part is Book One, which deals with constitutional issues. Book Two, about the expansion of the Romans, is moderately interesting, while Book Three is the most disjointed.
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