Niccolo Machiavelli: An Intellectual Biography

Overview

"I cannot imagine a work on Machiavelli that would benefit readers more than this extremely valuable book. Vivanti, who was one of the most eminent Machiavelli scholars, provides a fine introduction to Machiavelli's life and thought, writing with a clarity and precision that only a lifetime of study made possible. But this is far more than an introduction. Its treatment of Machiavelli's republicanism is probably the finest that exists, and its discussion of many other important topics—from Machiavelli's relationship to the Medici to his cultural

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Overview

"I cannot imagine a work on Machiavelli that would benefit readers more than this extremely valuable book. Vivanti, who was one of the most eminent Machiavelli scholars, provides a fine introduction to Machiavelli's life and thought, writing with a clarity and precision that only a lifetime of study made possible. But this is far more than an introduction. Its treatment of Machiavelli's republicanism is probably the finest that exists, and its discussion of many other important topics—from Machiavelli's relationship to the Medici to his cultural background and his ideas on religion—are equally persuasive."—Maurizio Viroli, author of Niccolò's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli

"This is a very readable and reliable guide to Machiavelli's life and thought from a distinguished editor of the Florentine's works. Providing far more comprehensive coverage than any other short guide, This book presents an informative account of all of Machiavelli's writings, and handles them with winning suppleness and authority. Vivanti reveals the intimate connections between Machiavelli's thought and the vicissitudes of his career within a colorful and turbulent political world characterized by incessant war, duplicitous statecraft, and delicate diplomacy."—Peter Stacey, University of California, Los Angeles

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal - Harvey C. Mansfield
Sensible and useful. . . . [Vivanti] sets forth the greatness of Machiavelli, not as a figure of his time, the Renaissance, but as a founder of modernity.
ForeWord Reviews - Karl Kunkel
Paints a complex picture of the circumstances that shaped the man whose name became synonymous with political cunning.
Prospect - Jonathan Powell
[E]xcellent, and accessible to anyone interested in finding out more about Machiavelli.
From the Publisher
"Sensible and useful. . . . [Vivanti] sets forth the greatness of Machiavelli, not as a figure of his time, the Renaissance, but as a founder of modernity."—Harvey C. Mansfield, Wall Street Journal

"Students well versed in the classics, the historian's vast writings and medieval history will most enjoy this academic biography."—Kirkus Reviews

"[T]his graceful and informative biography should win many readers and is a welcome addition to Machiavelli scholarship. . . . [R]ecommended for all scholarly collections."—Library Journal

"Paints a complex picture of the circumstances that shaped the man whose name became synonymous with political cunning."—Karl Kunkel, ForeWord Reviews

"[E]xcellent, and accessible to anyone interested in finding out more about Machiavelli."—Jonathan Powell, Prospect

"Vivanti supplies a fascinating, concise guide to Machiavelli's life and work. . . . [W]ell worth reading."—Joanna Kavenna, Spectator

"[I]nformative and . . . level-headed."—Keith Miller, Telegraph

"Vivanti offers a comprehensive analysis of the thought of Machiavelli situated against the backdrop of political and biographical developments in the early 16th century. . . . Few writers possess better qualifications to write this study."—Choice

"Niccolo Machiavelli: An Intellectual Biography will appeal to a wide audience, since the style is easy-to-read and the content broad but focused. Anyone interested in this period of history (15th and 16th century Europe) or political philosophy will find Vivanti's work a useful guide and a stimulating read."—Economics and Philosophy Blogspot

"Corrado Vivanti's learned intellectual biography reinforces [an] image of Machiavelli as a misunderstood forerunner of the Italian Risorgimento, calling for the redemption of Italian republicanism four centuries before the final reunification of the Italian states."—Michael Ignatieff, The Atlantic

Library Journal
Vivanti's book doesn't supplant Roberto Ridolfi's flagship study of 1963, The Life of Niccolo Machiavelli, but it should sit comfortably on the shelf with that classic account. Past editor of the standard Italian edition of Machiavelli's works, Vivanti, an emeritus history professor who died in 2012, intertwines analysis of the Florentine's writings with discussion of the rapidly changing milieu in which Machiavelli lived. His judgments are well founded throughout but disputable in some details. Vivanti sees Machiavelli's life as part of the flowering of the humanist movement that was changing the intellectual tone of his day. Serious readers may question this emphasis on continuity across Machiavelli's writings, but there are many rooms in this mansion and many views can be accommodated. A serious omission is Vivanti's failure, in a lengthy discussion of the use of "lo stato" in Machiavelli, to address J.H. Hexter's argument ("Il Principe and lo stato," 1957) that "lo stato" is not seen as an institution, a body politic, in "Il Principe" but rather as "an instrument of exploitation." VERDICT Overall, this graceful and informative biography should win many readers and is a welcome addition to Machiavelli scholarship. While public libraries may have Miles J. Unger's Machiavelli: A Biography, they should consider this work as well; it is recommended for all scholarly collections.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews
The late Vivanti was a man who knew the works of Machiavelli inside and out. This book is not a biography of the man but an exploration of his writings. Those who have read The Prince, The Art of War and The Discourses will have a leg up on everyone else reading this book, as Vivanti highlights the writings of this Florentine clerk and connects them to the local history. Some knowledge of local events in the 15th- and 16th-century Italian states is a must, especially regarding the Holy Roman Emperor, the king of France, numerous popes and local politicians, all of whom competed for control. There are those who insist that Machiavelli's most famous work, The Prince, rather than encouraging harsh, dictatorial government, is really a satiric picture intended to lead readers to republicanism. As he compared the politics and population of Rome to those of Florence, the ability to sustain a republic in this Tuscan city seemed highly improbable. His History of Florence, commissioned by Pope Clement VII, is a good example of his attempt to please his patron while trying to include all the history. Even so, his statement that republics, with their diversity, are much more adaptable and likely to last longer than a princedom indicate his true politics. That he was a republican is without doubt, but the volatility of the area shows how difficult the establishment of such a republic would be. This was an era of Savonarola, the Borgias and Medici, strong leaders who tolerated little opposition. Readers looking for the story of the Florentine historian's life will be better served by Miles Unger's 2011 biography. Students well versed in the classics, the historian's vast writings and medieval history will most enjoy this academic biography.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691151014
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2013
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 467,458
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Corrado Vivanti (1928-2012) was an emeritus professor of history, having taught at the universities of Rome, Turin, and Perugia. He was the editor of the standard edition of the complete works of Machiavelli.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Part I. The Florentine Secretary 1
1. A Shadowy Period: The First Half of His Life 3
2. The Relationship with Savonarola 7
3. The Activity in the Chancery 11
4. The Correspondence with Functionaries of the Domain 19
5. Diplomatic Activity 24
6. The Experience of the Early Missions 28
7. Changes of Fortune and the Ghiribizzi al Soderino 36
8. The Florentine Ordinance 41
9. The Venetian Defeat and the Reconquest of Pisa 51
10. The End of the Republic and the Return of the Medici 58

Part II. Exile in His Homeland 69
11. The Confinement at Sant'Andrea 71
12. "I have composed a little work On Princedoms" 76
13. The "Myth" of The Prince 85
14. Frequenting the Orti Oricellari 103
15. An Original Comment on Livy 108
16. The Art of War 122

Part III. "Niccolò Machiavelli, Historian, comic writer, and tragic writer" 127
17. A New Season in Machiavelli's Life 129
18. A Return to Business 135
19. "The annals or the history of Florence" 143
20. "The things done at home and abroad by the Florentine people" 149
21. The Friendship with Guicciardini 168
22. Clizia and the Musical Madrigals 176
23. Final Act 180

Appendix: Notes on the Use of the Word Stato in Machiavelli 193
Notes 219
Index 255

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