Machiavelli by Michael White

A Man Misunderstood

A brilliant teacher recommended I explore the book called ‘The Prince’ by Machiavelli in 2001/2. This was in a debate about whether Tupac (yes, the rapper) was the best writer of modern prose. Having read the Prince and loved Machiavelli’s ideas I wanted to explore more. Michaels book gives one an understanding of an enlightened Europe in the 1700’s which help unpack why The Prince was so successful.

Machiavellian: a person who adopts the principles recommended, or supposed to have been recommended, by Machiavelli in his treatise on statecraft; a person who practises expediency in preference to morality; an intriguer or schemer. Usu. derogatory.’ For more than five hundred years the name Machiavelli has resonated through the world of politics and power. He was an extraordinary man living in an extraordinary age: a brilliant thinker and theorist who was also a consummate diplomat. In this new biography of the Florentine political theorist and statesman, Michael White draws an objective picture of the author of THE PRINCE and THE ART OF WAR, who has been characterised for posterity as a corrupt, power-hungry demon whose works encouraged tyrants to kill and control. He does so by placing Machiavelli’s remarkable life in the context of the Renaissance and its luminaries, such as the Borgias and Leonardo da Vinci.

Book Review and Media Coverage:

A fantastic historical read. * DAILY EXPRESS * White’s great gift as a writer is his ability to blow life into seemingly stodgy material. Renaissance politics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but White makes it manageable without dumbing it down. * MAIL ON SUNDAY * He [Machiavelli] has been painted as a corrupt, cruel, vindictive social commentator with little time for human emotion, but White successfully argues that Machiavelli is actually an author of remarkable foresight who manages to assess the Realpolitik of * GLASGOW HERALD * [Machiavelli] was a great thinker and a greater artist, and Michael White has done as much as anyone could to convince us of his genius * John Banville, IRISH TIMES *

Link to book:

Amazon Reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars gives a great feel of historic Florence and the intricate web of …Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 6 January 2016

Verified Purchase: Very well written, creates a very interesting – human – portrait of Machiavelli, puts his work in the context of those extraordinary times, gives a great feel of historic Florence and the intricate web of pan-Italian and pan-European diplomacy and politics ensuring the survival and prosperity of this great city, and the role that Machiavelli played in securing its good fortunes.

5.0 out of 5 stars Very good

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 July 2020

Verified Purchase: Around half way in that book. Very good writing style and story

4.0 out of 5 stars `We are much beholden to Machiavel and others ..Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 January 2010.. that write what men do, and not what they ought to do, ` (Francis Bacon `The Advancement of Learning’ 1605)

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was an extraordinary man living in tumultuous times. While he is most famous today as the author of `The Prince’ (not published until after his death), his other works include `The Art of War’, eight volumes of Florentine histories as well as poems and plays. In respect of his writing Machiavelli was better known as a comic author during his lifetime because of his plays `Mandragola’ and `Clizia’.

`The Prince’ was based on observations of Cesare Borgia. Its brutal truth: that leaders who are prepared to be ruthless are those who are successful may not be palatable be accurately reflects Machiavelli’s experience. This book looks beyond `The Prince’ to the man Niccolo Machiavelli himself and the times in which he lived. Renaissance politics, the roles of various popes and of the Medici family are part of the backdrop. In Machiavelli’s vision of an ideal government, the people (not a collective whole, but a small powerful elite) worked with the ruler. This is not democracy as most of us understand it today, but neither is it tyranny. It is ironic that Machiavelli is best remembered for his observations in `The Prince’ when for much of his life Machiavelli effectively served the government of Florence.

I think that Machiavelli has been misrepresented and misinterpreted over the past 500 years, which has led to some (at least) misunderstanding. But to really appreciate the man and his work, it is necessary to appreciate the times in which he lived and understand that reputations can be made and destroyed by the capricious nature of politics.

I enjoyed this book and learned from it. It contains a timeline for the life and times of Machiavelli, a list of his principal works and references for those moved to learn more. By Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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