August 28, 2014

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (Review)

Title: The Prince
Author: Niccolò Machiavelli
First published: 1532
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I don't know why I picked The Prince in the first place: I'm not a fan of political writing or non-fiction, but the mood stroke me and I downloaded it. The book is very short and, although it was written in the 16th century, very accessible. It's essentially a self-help for rulers, stating what are the best ways to gain and retain power, how to approach different problems and to manage different social strata of the kingdom.

Machiavelli is unscrupulous and ruthless, but his methods seem to be really effective. Anyway, what do a hundred dozen dead people mean if it leads to a greater prosperity of the kingdom? :) It is difficult to support his views from the modern point of view, but it's very interesting to explore his reasoning anyway.

Machiavelli was writing The Prince at the time when Italy didn't have a common ruler, and powerful families, the Pope and foreign kings all competed for influence in different regions. Along with the classical examples taken from Roman history Machivelli also uses contemporary situation to explain his views, which makes the book a great source of historical information. Luckily, I was a bit acquainted with Italian politics of the time (thanks to The Borgias! -_-), so it was much easier for me to make sense of what was being referred to. But no previous knowledge is necessary to be able to enjoy the book. (Although if you go and binge-watch The Borgias, you will not regret it!)

In my book:
An essential classic, especially if you are interested in history, philosophy and politics.


  1. I haven't watched The Borgias because I know how historically inaccurate The Tudors was and I didn't want false history to leave a lasting impression. Mind you, I loved The Tudors as a guilty, self-indulgent pleasure. But I caught myself telling Rob "That's not how that happened" or "Wow, they really played with that detail of history" and such.

    At least the writers didn't have Anne Boleyn having incest with her brother the way Phillipa Gregory did. I have no doubt that, had they done that, I would have stopped watching the show no matter how pretty it was.

    1. I don't actually know how inaccurate The Borgias is because I'm not an expert in Italian history, but at least I haven't found any discrepancies between Machiavelli's description of events and what I remember from the series. It's a good sign, I guess.

      Oh, and I totally understand your feelings about THAT Anne Boleyn incest. There is some incest in The Borgias, but I think it's widely believed that this one DID take place. At least I have seen it mentioned in some books. But even if it's fiction, they have Jeremy Irons, so who cares? :)

  2. I read the Prince a couple of years ago and was interested to see that he didn't seem as schemey and manipulative and evil as I've always heard. Sort of amoral, yes, but much more concerned with the welfare of regular people than I had thought, and compared with the actual violent and lawless society he lived in--kind of preferable.

    1. Actually, yes, he's not that bad. He really is concerned with regular people because if they are very unhappy that's bad for the country and the monarch :) But any kind of organization is better than no organization, so I agree his ways were more preferable than the chaos and the bloodshed of not so well-advised politics.

  3. I loved this book, even though I had to google a few names because I didn't know the finer details of some of the situations that he mentions. Even though his actions might be old-fashioned and extreme from today's point of view, the reasons for those actions and the general idea still apply today. I haven't read them, but I've seen a few books that add a modern point of view to Machiavelli's teachings.


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