A Biography

Book - 2011
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He is one of the few figures in history whose name has become an adjective. Everyone has heard of him, yet few read his most important works. Miles Unger tells readers who Machiavelli really was and why he remains important today.

Few political philosophers -- are more often referred to and more often misunderstood than Machiavelli. He was truly a product of the Renaissance, and as much a revolutionary in the field of political philosophy as Leonardo or Michelangelo were in painting and sculpture. He watched his native Florence lose its independence to the French, thanks to poor leadership from the Medici successors to the great Lorenzo (Il Magnifico). Machiavelli was a keen observer of people, and he spent years studying events and people before writing his famous books. They were based on observations of human nature that were as perceptive as Shakespeare's.

Machiavelli was modern in another sense: he was a self-made man. Descended from minor nobility, he grew up in a household that was run by an incompetent father. He was well educated and smart, and he entered government service as a clerk. He eventually worked his way to ambassador, where he learned the art of statecraft. He became an important figure in the Florentine state but was defeated by the deposed Medici and Pope Julius II. He was tortured but ultimately freed by the restored Medici. No longer employed, he retired to his home to write the books for which he is remembered. His great work The Prince was considered too dangerous to publish during his lifetime and was published only after Machiavelli's death.
Publisher: New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Edition: 1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781416556282
Branch Call Number: B/MACHIAVELLI
Characteristics: x, 400 p. : ill. (some col.) , map ; 25 cm.


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Jan 12, 2017

This well researched and scholarly work is more than biography; it’s a brief history of renaissance Europe particularly Italy. Besides politics, the author touches on art, religion, family and social convention. The book is well worth reading. Great job, Mr. Unger!
Machiavelli was neither saint nor demon. He was a pragmatist... the father of pragmatists. He described man as he found them. He said, “...all men are wicked and... will always give vent to the malignity that is in their minds when opportunity offers.” We dislike both this characterization and the person who would so characterize us. Others spoke of how to rule justly while in power; Mr. M. of the how to rule effectively and remain in power, whether in a dictatorship or a republic. He believes that the end justifies the means—even lies, pretense, treachery if unavoidable—as long as the end is desirable. The man, if not a Stoic was certainly stoical. Look at how he faced his imprisonment and torture.
Machiavelli is not for the squeamish. The author says of Machiavellian-style politics, “Those concerned for their immortal souls might want to find a different line of work.” As I read, my mind kept running back to the recent election south of the border. I shall watch Mr. Trump and see if Machiavelli’s influence is seen in the new President’s leadership style.


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