Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince

(1513)

Niccolò Machiavelli’s book The Prince, or Il principe in Italian, is a treatise on the acquisition, maintenance, and use of political power. Best known for this work, Machiavelli was an Italian politician, diplomat, and writer—a “Renaissance man” in the modern conception of the term. He is considered one of the most famous thinkers of the Renaissance and is thought by some to be the founder of modern political science, since his goal in writing The Prince was to divorce politics from morality. For some readers of The Prince, Machiavelli was the consummate political realist. For others, he was a cynic, and his name has survived in the adjective Machiavellian, which denotes the use of sly cunning and manipulation in order to achieve one’s ends.

The Prince is a prominent document in a literary genre called “Mirrors for Princes.” In this context, the word princes has been used to refer to rulers in general, not just princes. Writers in this genre in antiquity examined politics...

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Cesare Borgia with Machiavelli (Library of Congress)

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