"The Prince" has long been both praised and reviled for its message of moral relativism, and political expediency. Although a large part is devoted to the mechanics of gaining and staying in power, Machiavelli's end purpose is to maintain a just and stable government. He is not ambiguous in stating his belief that committing a small cruelty to avert a larger is not only justifiable, but required of a just ruler. Machiavelli gives a vivid portrayal of his world in the chaos and tumult of early 16th century Florence, Italy and Europe. He uses both his contemporary political situation, and that of the classical period to illustrate his precepts of statecraft.
Niccolò Macchiavelli (1469-1527) was an Italian political philosopher who held various political offices in Florence, including secretary to the Florentine executive council. In 1512, when the Medici family came to power, Macchiavelli was forced out of office and imprisoned for a time. He subsequently retired to his estate and devoted himself to the history of Florence and other literary endeavors. His most famous work is
The Prince, containing his theory of government and maxims for practical statecraft.
"The introduction is excellent--it places Machiavelli's career and his writings in a persuasive historical context, underlines the inherent limitations of any interpretation that hails him as a 'modern man, ' and is written with verve and brio." --John D. O'Connor
University of New Orleans