Italian Renaissance Writers : Niccolo Macchiavelli

A.) History of the Republic of Florence

The Republic of Florence since 1434 had been ruled by the Medici family. Their domination was ended in 1494, when a republican regime was established, in which Niccolo Macchiavelli served as the head of the second chancery. In 1512, the Medici returned to power, and Macchiavelli fled into exile.

B.) Il Principe (The Prince)

Niccolo Macchiavelli was born in 1469 in the city of Florence. He was head of the second chancery of the Republic of Florence. When the Republic fell to the Emperor's troops, and Republic was replaced by a Duchy, with the MEDICIs as dukes, Macchiavelli went into exile. In exile, in 1513, he wrote IL PRINCIPE, the Prince. Macchiavelli was recalled by the Medici to Florence and served again in public administration for the last two years of his life. He died in 1527; il Principe was published in 1532. In 1559 the book for the first time was listed on the papal index of forbidden books.

In 'the Prince', Macchiavelli points out that the ruler's task is to survive in the political reality. In order to succeed, he shall rule absolute, shall not be bound by laws and morale, shall be ruthless to be effective.
There are two main interpretations of the book - one indicating that Macchiavelli sought favour with the Medici family now back in power, the other that he was deeply critical of them, as well as of CESARE BORGIA, often mentioned in the book, and the entire text is satirical.

Links on Macchiavelli from Episteme Links
Encyclopedic biography from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
DOCUMENTS Niccolo Macchiavelli, The Prince, from Medieval Sourcebook Niccolo Macchiavelli, The Prince, from Landmarks in Critical Thinking Series, ch. 15 and 16 only, with introduction by Memlee H. Salmon

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on May 30th 2001