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The Prince Paperback – September 10, 2011
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"The Prince" was essentially the first work of political realism in Western thought -- the first work of Western political philosophy that concerned itself not with the ideal government (as Plato had done in his _Republic_) but with the practical realities of getting and holding power. To describe the impact and influence of that willingness, that first notion that conventional morality might not be the best guide to success, would be as impossible a task as trying to summarize the influence of Galileo. Napoleon is rumored to have written extensive annotations to this book; Stalin allegedly kept a copy on his nightstand. Half of Shakespeare's villains (Iago, Richard III, etc.) derive their character in whole or part from this text.
Most of this book is extraordinarily controversial, even today, yet still fundamentally difficult to argue against; there's a reason the Catholic Church kept it on the _Index Librorum Prohibitorum_ for centuries. If you're looking for food for thought, it's here.
This particular kindle edition is fairly good; the text is cleanly presented with few typographical or scanning errors, and the translator has clearly made a significant effort to present the text as accurately as possible in a modern translation, with several footnotes detailing possible alternate translations of particular words, etc. In addition to the text of _The Prince_, this edition also includes two shorter historical works by Machiavelli, "Descriptions of the Methods Adopted by the Duke Valentino When Murdering Vitellozzo Vitelli, Oliverotto da Fermo, the Signor Pagolo, and the Duke di Gravina Orsini," and "The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca." ("Duke Valentino" is an alternate name for Cesare Borgia). Both additional texts are, in essence, case studies of how contemporary historical figures achieved success by acting according to the precepts which Machiavelli outlines in the main body of the text, and as such are very useful and interesting companion reads.
As a final note, if anyone has recommendations for histories of Italy in this time period, please link me to them in a comment -- after reading this, I want to read more about the era. Thanks!
During the mid-Renaissance, Italy - as such - didn't exist. Rather, you had areas that varied considerably in their republican values. Venice and Florence enjoyed a higher standard of living, and even flourished under relatively enlightened governments; other, poorer areas like Mantua, still operated on the medieval model - though there was a wide disparity between rich and poor in either case. The Papal States exercised its own power, and its own source of wealth.
"The Prince" refers to the peninsula's main political division, the principality. Niccolo Machiavelli lived in a time when the political and economic divisions made for some harmony, but also violence and despotism. The prince had to understand how to manage the violence and work within the constraints of the Borgia's throttle-hold on power.
This version has an enjoyable forward, and is translated ably. However, the first five chapters are omitted. This Kindle edition is only a reader's sample; you'll have to purchase the full edition or find a cheaper alternative.
Having said that, the book is a kind of wisdom for- and observation of what makes a good leader. It also opens a door into various historic events and leaders that may be an obscurity to so many of us. Human cruelty was not invented in the 20th century and neither was deceit, murder, jealousy, ambition and ruthless thirst for power.
In view of even recent historical events, such as failed invasions, meddling with other people's countries and so on, this book rings true and should be read by those interested.
To bad I am to illiterate to read it in the original Italian text, but I am satisfied with this translation and brilliant book and will read it again for the hints on historic characters and further absorbing of its contents.
To be able to read and understand this book correctly, you must be prepared to spend some time understanding the politics and conflicts of the time. That being said, it's the only way to do it and be able to grasp more than surface conclusions. Being able to read and understand the work changed my understanding of not just politics, but also my interactions with different groups both socially and in my work life.
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