Reading a piece of work from the intriguing Renaissance helps you get a better understanding of the era and the people in. This is especially true when the work is that of Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince. It is a classical piece of literature that every student or leader should own.
Niccolo Machiavelli was privy to much of the political activity in Renaissance Italy. In 1512, the roller-coaster political ride of any state took a major dip for Machiavelli as he was banished for suspected treason. It was during this time that the author decided to write down a guide for state rulers. It became known as it The Prince.
Dedicated to Lorenzo De’ Medici of the Italian ruling family, Machiavelli begins by describing the various types of states and principalities. A ruler might find himself over a state that he inherited, or he might find that he is now ruling over a state that he has conquered. These states cannot be handled the same way. Depending on the type of state, the ruler has to be able to adjust how he rules to be effective. He even explains how a ruler who acquires the throne by evil means has to handle his subjects differently if he is to stay in power.
What impresses me the most about The Prince is how Machiavelli does not make the perfect ruler where he has to fit in a one-size only mold. He shows that there are many situations that a ruler can come to power and each of those situations requires different action.
What kind of troops does the ruler want? Each type came with its pros and cons. Machiavelli discusses each of these. How does the ruler want to approach military matters? There are implications here. How does the ruler want to be viewed by those that are his subjects? That will dictate much of his actions.
He even discusses those that treat their subjects cruelly and what to expect as a result. Treachery, piousness, and weakness are all also discussed. Machiavelli approaches the entire subject objectively: “A prince, therefore, must be indifferent to the charge of cruelty if he is to keep his subjects loyal and united.”
Machiavelli creates a handbook that rulers even today would benefit from reading. Ruling a state is not easy. The choices a ruler makes determine the how his reign will end. Throughout the book, he gives advice on how a ruler should be wary and wise: “Hence a prince ought to be a fox in recognizing snares and a lion in driving off wolves.”
The fact that this work is obviously in the public domain, you will be able to quickly find free versions on the web. Having a hard copy has some advantages and is highly recommended personally. I started reading it online, but found that I wanted to mark certain passages and make notes in the margin. That can be electronically, but I enjoyed having the hard copy in my hand to examine and devour.
If you love history and politics, you really should read The Prince. You probably will agree that leaders of today would benefit from Machiavelli’s advice.
Disclaimer: This book was purchased by the author with her own funds.