Niccolo Machiavelli and the Birth of Modern Political Science
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Niccolo Machiavelli and the Birth of Modern Political Science

This tells the story of Niccolo Machiavelli and the writing of his most famous book The Prince. The book serves as a framework in the study of political science.

Niccolo di Bernardo del Machiavelli who was born on May 3, 1469 and died on June 21, 1527 is celebrated as the father of modern political science. One of his most famous books is titled, The Prince, and has been found at the bedside of many famous political leaders including Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. This was a tumultuous time in the history of Italy that gave rise to many great leaders among them are Alexander VI the Pope in Rome, his illegitimate son Caesar Borgia and Lorenzo the Magnificent, a member of the DeMedici family the rulers of Florence.

It was to honor Caesar Borgia that he wrote his most memorable writing titled The Prince, but Alexander VI died before the book was finished and Caesar Borgia fell out of favor, and ultimately was killed in attacking someplace in Spain. Machiavelli had to make some quick changes so he dedicated the book too Lorenzo the Magnificent. Alexander VI successor Pope Julius II read the book, and threatened Machiavelli with torture saying he would make and 6 inches longer than God, and sent Machiavelli off to his estates in Tuscany to rusticate with the warning not to write anything else.

Machiavelli was a diplomat, political philosopher, humanist and writer that was based in Florence during the time when the de’Medici’s were out of power, during that time he serve not only as a civil servant and diplomat for the Florentine Republic that lasted from 1498 until 1512 that was the period in which the de’Medici’s were not in power. When they returned to power in 1512 Machiavelli was removed from all his offices.

When he was 29 and was elected the head of the second chancery in July 1498 he was also made the secretary of the Dieci di Liberta e Pace (Justice of the Peace). It was during this period witnessed the effective state building that was being carried on in Central Europe by Caesar Borgia the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI.

During the time in which Machiavelli served the Florentine city state he held several different offices including between 1503 and 1506 he was in charge of the Florentine militia giving him a great deal of the literary experience, along with a distrust of mercenary troops that he explained in his official reports, and later in his senior article works. At the time when he was in charge of the militia he preferred working with citizen soldiers who were politically invested in the Florentine city state. The lessons he learned paid off later for Florence in 1509 when they defeated the army of Pisa.

Thank you Billy's best-known book was titled, Il Principe, that contains a number of useful maxims regarding politics, but addressed the subject from the point of a hereditary prince, but did not neglect the idea of a so-called new prince. Where by necessity the heredity prince has to maintain order using the existing institutions to which his people are accustomed too. The new prince on the other hand has a much more difficult task before him to rule the populace because he must first stabilize his new found power so he can build a stable and enduring political structure.

Though Julius II and the Catholic Church proscribed the Prince to the extent of even registering it to the index, “Librorum Prohibitorum” that viewed the book negatively, but the Prince actually is a book on how to gain power, and how to keep power. It is served in this role for the past 500 years.

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Comments (4)

Great and very informative article.thanks for posting

Ranked #94 in History

A fascinating man in a fascinating time.

Ranked #38 in History

Thank you professor. Another great article. Do you think that the term "Machiavellian" is used appropriately or accurately today? That was such an amazing time in history. He would have been almost 30 during the Bonfire of the Vanities (1497). Just stream of consciousness rambling... A dangerous time to be alive and an exciting time to be alive.

Ranked #12 in History

I don't think he would appreciate the connotation in which the term Machiavellian is used today. What Niccolo did was peach on all his contemporaries with out letting his own self be seen. Although Il Princpe (The Prince) is his most famous work the one that really fascinated me was The Discourses on Titus Livy where he expanded the theme he started with The Prince. It takes some wading to get through because if I remember it is almost 500 pages long. Another book he wrote was The Art of War that is also interesting; giving a good explanation of warfare during his times. A more important book about warfare is by Tsun Tzu The Art of War. This is a not too gentle reminder that the Chinese are the most warlike people of Earth. During the first Gulf War the generals took this book to heart and used it to defeat the Iraqis. The lessons are timeless!