Niccolo Machiavelli taught that political leaders must be prepared to do evil that good may come of it, and his name has been a byword ever since for duplicity and immorality. Is his sinister reputation deserved? In answering this question Quentin Skinner focuses on three major works, The Prince, The Discourses, and The History of Florence, and distils from them an introduction to Machiavelli's doctrines of exemplary clarity.
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Fortune favors the Bold
"It is desirable to be considered liberal; it is sensible to seem merciful and not cruel; it is essential in general to appear meritorious."
- Machiavelli, The Prince
Quentin Skinner's Very Short Introduction (VSI #31) to Machiavelli is my third selection of Oxford's Very Short Introduction series. No longer choosing at random, I bought this one because it was early in the series (I'm developing a methodology now on selecting which VSIs to buy/read). My considerations for new VSIs are basically this: Earlier over later; cheaper over expensive; broader over narrower. I think I'll probably take a bit of a break from them for a couple weeks at least, but one benefit of these micro-histories/biographies, etc., is they have allowed me to catch-up on my reading goal pretty quickly.
So, Machiavelli? The book was a great survey of his life and works. Usually when thinking of Machiavelli, I (like everyone else) localize on The Prince. This book is a great intro to understanding the FULL Machiavelli. So, the book spends time exploring his other major works (The Art of War, The Discourses, History of Florence and of the Affairs of Italy and his fascination with Virtù and Fortuna. Anyway, I enjoyed the book. Skinner seemed to grasp exactly what the VSIs are meant to do (summarize, entice, introduce).
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