Machiavelli


Niccolò Machiavelli is often referred to as the ‘father of modern political theory’. He also had the reputation of being a great statesman and philosopher. Although Machiavelli was comparatively unknown during his life time, he has had a vast impact on political science. His work and philosophies have influenced some of our greatest thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, Francis Bacon, Antonio Gramsci and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Machiavelli was born in 1469, into a very wealthy Florentine family, there is very little known about his early years except that he was educated to a high level and his initial work was as a clerk in the government (1494). The year was significant because it was the year that the Medici family who had ruled Florence for the previous 60 years were ousted from power.

After starting his career in government Machiavelli soon rose to the post of diplomat, and travelled extensively through his native Italy and also through Spain and France, where he met many influential leaders. One leader in particular had impacted in Machiavelli, was the powerful Cesare Borgia who was not known for his kindness but for his ruthless nature. Lessons learned from Borgia’s leadership helped Machiavelli reorganise the Florentine militia and reorganise the military defence of the republic.

Machiavelli, became a prolific writer and his first work was completed in 1499, Discourse on Pisa (Discoro sopra le cose di Pisa) followed in 1502 by Discourse on the Provision of Money (Discoro sopra la provisione del danaro, He then went on to write a dissertation on the way that rebel subjects should be dealt with. This was the start of some of his major works that encompassed histories, philosophies to enable analysis of political influences in particular his work on ‘Portrait of the affairs of Germany’ and ‘Portrait on the affairs of France’.

But in 1512, the Medici family came back into power and the republic of Florentine ceased to exist. Machiavelli was no longer required in his post of diplomat. Because his philosophical writings he was suspected of conspiracy and arrested and tortured. On his release he spent some time at his father’s estate on the outskirts of Florence. In the hope of regaining his position in government he dedicated his next book ‘The Prince’ to Lorenzo de Medici. The book in essence was a study on how to obtain power and then maintain that power, it also provided a critique of the way to sustain insurance and power.

The book however did not help Machiavelli gain his position in government. ‘The Prince’, was published after his death in 1527, and incited a lot of controversy. It is probably the book for which he was best known.

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