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The Prince. Understanding Niccolo Machiavelli. The city of Florence. Machiavelli a lifelong citizen of Florence Italy divided into city states, not united nation Unlike feudal Europe, northern Italy dominated by cities which became major trading and economic centers

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The prince

The Prince

Understanding Niccolo Machiavelli


The city of florence
The city of Florence

  • Machiavelli a lifelong citizen of Florence

  • Italy divided into city states, not united nation

    • Unlike feudal Europe, northern Italy dominated by cities which became major trading and economic centers

  • Individual identities aided by mountainous geography which prevented communication, etc.

    • While Catholic church important, distance allowed the city states to be relatively independent

  • Battle between states for power, constant changing of gov’ts, leaders




Machiavelli 1469 1527
Machiavelli (1469-1527)

  • Machiavelli raised in Florence

    • Born at a time when there was continual struggle for power between city states, church

  • Father was a well-known attorney

    • Is thought Machiavelli family descended from Tuscan royalty

  • Educated in Florence, which was one of the leading educational centers in Europe

  • At age 29, elected to office in Florence

    • Part of a diplomatic council in charge of negotiation and military affairs


Machiavelli s career
Machiavelli’s career

  • As part of work, sent to the courts of Spain, France, Germany, the Papacy in Rome, and a variety of the Italian city states

  • Between 1503-1506, in charge of Florence’s militia

    • Preferred to used invested citizen soldiers rather than mercenaries, a point he makes in The Prince

  • In August, 1512 the Medici take control of Florence

    • Old ruling family, out the republic set up in Florence

  • Machiavelli arrested and tortured, but is eventually allowed to go free and into exile

    • While in exile is when he writes The Prince


The prince1
The Prince

  • Machiavelli’s most famous work

  • Addresses the concept of the “new prince,” rather than the hereditary prince, who must stabilize his power as well as building political structure

  • Seen as the break between political idealism (Plato, Aristotle) and political realism

    • Machiavelli did not see value in rulers orienting themselves by an imaginary ideal world


Understanding the text
Understanding the text

  • Beginnings of empiricism and realism

  • Challenged the Christian value of Providence

    • Individual determines his own fate

    • Natural to be ambitious and seek glory, encourages risk taking, new systems

  • Leaders should not be religious but encourage his people to be religious

    • Helps maintain order and control

  • Good ends justify bad means

    • Basis of capitalism


Royalty or republic
Royalty or Republic?

  • The Prince gives advice on achieving and maintaining political power

  • Text alludes to monarch, but other works indicate Machiavelli saw value in a republic

  • In 18th century, The Prince was viewed by critics as a satirical piece of writing

  • Current modern critics see The Prince as having some clear elements of irony


Lasting legacy
Lasting legacy

  • Machiavellian: a term used to describe those who manipulate others for their own political advantage

  • Text had significant influence on a wide range of leaders, philosophers

    • John Adams extensively quotes Machiavelli in A Defense of the Constitution of the United States of America

    • Bacon, Hume, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Descartes


Your assignment
Your assignment

  • Read two chapters:

    • Chapter 17: Concerning Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether it is Better to be Loved than Feared

    • Chapter 19: That One Should Avoid Being Despised and Hated

  • Read both chapters carefully and annotate text in anticipation for Socratic discussion on Wednesday

  • Participation in Socratic will be part of grade


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