The Prince

The Prince

3.9 105
by Niccolò Machiavelli
     
 

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Written in 1513 for the Medici, following their return to power in Florence, The Prince is a handbook on ruling and the exercise of power. It remains as relevant today as it was in the sixteenth century. Widely quoted in the Press and in academic publications, The Prince has direct relevance to the issues of business and corporate governance confronting global

Overview

Written in 1513 for the Medici, following their return to power in Florence, The Prince is a handbook on ruling and the exercise of power. It remains as relevant today as it was in the sixteenth century. Widely quoted in the Press and in academic publications, The Prince has direct relevance to the issues of business and corporate governance confronting global corporations as they enter a new millennium.


Much of what Machiavelli wrote has become the common currency of realpolitik, yet still his ideas retain the power to shock and annoy. In the words of Norman Stone, The Prince is 'a manual of man-management that would suit a great many parts of the modern world'.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This edition of the The Prince has three distinct and disparate objectives: to provide a fresh and accurate translation; to analyze and find the roots of Machiavelli's thought; and to collect relevant extracts from other works by Machiavelli and some contemporaries, to be used to illuminate and explicate the text. The objectives are all reached with considerable and admirable skill. The reader senses Professor Atkinson's empathy and feeling for even the tiniest movements in Machiavelli's mind. Professor Atkinson has done a great service to students and teachers of Machiavelli, who should certainly welcome this as the most useful edition of The Prince in English. --Mario Domandi, Italica, 1978

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781848704886
Publisher:
Wordsworth Editions, Limited
Publication date:
02/01/2013
Series:
Classics of World Literature
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
176
File size:
740 KB

Read an Excerpt

Niccolò Machiavelli to His Magnificence Lorenzo de’ Medici1

Those who wish to win the favor of a prince will generally approach him with gifts of what they value most or what they believe will most delight him. Hence we see princes being offered horses, arms, vestments of gold, precious stones, and similar accoutrements worthy of their grandeur. Wishing to present myself to Your Magnificence with a token of my deepest respect, I have found among my possessions nothing that I value or esteem higher than my knowledge of the deeds of great men. I have acquired this knowledge through my long experience of modern affairs and a lifelong study of ancient times, all of which I have weighed and examined with great diligence and brought together into this small volume, which I am now offering to Your Magnificence. Though I deem this work unworthy of being in Your illustrious presence, my confidence in Your benevolence persuades me that it will be accepted, and that Your Magnificence will recognize that I cannot offer You a greater gift than the prospect of Your understanding in the shortest period all that I have experienced and learned over so many years and with so much danger and hardship. I have not filled this volume with pompous rhetoric, with bombast and magnificent words, or with the unnecessary artifice with which so many writers gild their work. I wanted nothing extraneous to ornament my writing, for it has been my purpose that only the range of material and the gravity of the subject should make it pleasing. Nor do I wish it to be thought presumptuous that a man of low and humble condition like myself should presume to map out and direct the government ofprinces. But just as a cartographer will descend into the plains in order to study the nature of the mountains, and will then climb the highest peaks in order to study the low-lying land, so, too, only an exalted prince can grasp the nature of the people, and only a lesser man can perceive the nature of a prince.

I hope therefore that Your Magnificence will accept this humble gift in the spirit in which it is offered. Should You condescend to read and consider it carefully, You will perceive in its pages my profound desire that Your Magnificence will rise to the greatness that Fortune and Your qualities promise. And should Your Magnificence deign to look down from the lofty summit of Your eminence to these lowly depths, You will see how I have suffered undeservedly Fortune’s great and continuing malignity.

1. Lorenzo de’ Medici (1492—1519) was the grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Chapter One
Of the kinds of principalities that exist, and how they can be acquired

All states, all dominions that rule or have ruled over men, are or have been either republics or principalities. Principalities are either hereditary, with a long-established bloodline, or new. And the new principalities are either entirely new, as Milan was to Francesco Sforza2, or are like limbs added to the hereditary state of the prince who acquires them, as the Kingdom of Naples was to the King of Spain3. States obtained in this way are accustomed either to living under a prince, or to being free. They are acquired either with the arms of others, or with one’s own, either by chance or by skill.

2. Francesco Sforza (1401—66) was a soldier of fortune who became Duke of Milan in 1450.
3. Ferdinand the Catholic (1452—1516), King of Aragon, also became Ferdinand III of Naples in 1504.

Chapter Two
Of hereditary principalities

I will not discuss republics, as I have already done so at some length elsewhere. I shall only concentrate on principalities, and shall weave together the threads I have already laid out. I will show how these principalities can be governed and main- tained.

First, states that are hereditary and tied to the bloodline of their prince are easier to maintain than new ones. It is enough not to diverge from the practices of one’s forebears, and to handle unforeseen issues as they arise. If such a prince is of at least average ability he can retain his posi- tion of power, so long as no extraordinary or excessive force deprive him of it. If this prince is deprived of his state, he will find he can reacquire it if any misfortune befalls the usurper.

In Italy we have the example of the Duke of Ferrara, who resisted the assaults of the Venetians in 1484 and of Pope Julius II in 1510, for the simple reason that he had inherited an ancient principality4. A hereditary prince has less cause to mistreat his subjects, and so is more loved by them. If unusual vices do not make him hated, it is to be expected that he will be loved by his people.

The long continuum of the dominion obliterates the memories and issues that make men yearn for innovation, for one change will inevitably forge a link to another.

4. In fact, Duke Ercole d’Este of Ferrara managed to end the war with Venetians in 1484, while his son Duke Alfonso managed to stay in power despite excommunication and an ongoing war with the papal forces.


Chapter Three
Of mixed principalities

It is in the new principality that the difficulties lie. First, if the principality is not completely new, but is like a limb or extension added to another principality (in which case we could almost call the whole state a mixed principality), its volatility stems mainly from a difficulty inherent in all new principalities. This is that men will willingly change their ruler in the hope that they will fare better, a hope that leads them to take up arms against their old ruler. But in this they are deceived, because, as they invariably discover, their lot under a new ruler is inevitably worse. This is the result of another natural and basic inevitability: that you cannot avoid offending those whose new ruler you are, both with your armed soldiers and with innumerable other provocations that come in the wake of a conquest. You end up making enemies of all those you have offended during your conquest of the principality, and you find that you cannot keep the friendship of those who helped you to power, since you cannot satisfy them in the way they had envisioned. Furthermore, you cannot take strong measures against them, as you are indebted to them. Even with the most powerful army, if you want to invade a state, you need the support of the people. It was for these reasons that King Louis XII of France was quick to occupy Milan, and just as quick to lose it. Duke Ludovico’s own forces were enough to win Milan back the first time, because the same masses that had opened the gates for Louis, finding themselves misled in their hopes for a better future, could not endure the new prince’s offenses5.

It is a fact that once a prince acquires a rebellious state for the second time, it also proves harder to lose that state a second time6. This is because the prince who seizes the opportunity of the rebellion has fewer scruples about securing his position by punishing offenders, flushing out suspects, and strengthening all the places where he is weakest. In this sense, it was enough for a Duke Ludovico to make a little noise along the borders for Louis XII to lose Milan the first time. But for him to lose Milan a second time the whole world had to unite against him, defeat his army, and chase it out of Italy7. This followed from the causes I have already laid out. Nonetheless, both the first and second time, Milan was taken from him.

The general reasons for the first loss have been discussed. It now remains to discuss the second, and to see what recourse someone in Louis’s position could have taken to maintain himself more securely in his new acquisition. I must stress that the states a prince acquires and adds to his own are either of the same country and language, or are not. If they are it is much easier to retain them, particularly if they are not used to freedom. To hold them securely, it is enough to extinguish the line of the previous prince who ruled them. As for the rest, if the new acquisition’s former state of affairs is kept and there is no difference in customs, men will live quite peacefully, as we have seen in Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony, and Normandy, which for a long time now have all belonged to France. Although there is some difference in language, their customs are similar, and their people get along with one another quite easily. He who acquires such states and wishes to retain them has to make sure of two things: that the bloodline of their former princes is extinguished, and that their laws and taxes remain the same. This way, the prince’s new state merges with the old, quickly becoming a single body.

But difficulties arise when you acquire states in a land with differing languages, customs, and laws. To keep these states, you need good fortune and much diligence. One of the best and quickest solutions is for the new prince to go and live in his new state. This makes the possession more durable and secure. The Turk did this in Greece8. With all the other measures he took to keep Greece in his possession, had he not gone to live there he would not have succeeded, because once the prince is established within his new state he is able to see problems as they arise and can remedy them. If he is not there, problems become obvious only once they are dire and can no longer be remedied. Furthermore, if he is present, his new state will not be looted by his officials, and his new subjects can enjoy immediate access to their prince. This will give them more reason to love him if they are on his side, and to fear him if they are not, and foreign powers wishing to attack his state will respect him more. Hence, if the prince lives in his new state, it is difficult for him to lose it.

Another efficient remedy is to set up colonies in one or two places that will act as the shackles of your new state. If you do not set up colonies, you will have to send a great number of troops to secure it, while a colony can be established and maintained at negligible cost. The only subjects who will be affronted are those whose fields and houses will be confiscated to be given to the new colonists. But these dispossessed subjects make up only a small part of the state and will end up poor and dispersed, and so can do no harm. The rest of your new subjects will not be affronted (and hence will be acquiescent), but will also be frightened of transgressing, worried that they too might be dispossessed. I conclude that colonies do not cost much, are loyal, and will cause less trouble. And as I have already mentioned, those you dispossess cannot harm you, as they will be poor and dispersed. In short, men must either be flattered or eliminated, because a man will readily avenge a slight grievance, but not one that is truly severe. Hence, the offense done a man must be of the kind that cannot incur vengeance.

If you choose armed forces instead of colonies, you will spend more and will have to squander all the income from the new state in order to pay the army. This will turn the acquisition into a loss, and all your new subjects will end up offended, since an army, constantly on the move and constantly requartered, hurts the whole state. Everyone feels the pain, and everyone becomes your enemy. And these are enemies who can harm you, because though they have been defeated, they remain on their own ground. So in every sense, using armed forces is as useless as setting up colonies is useful.

It is also important when a prince has conquered a foreign state that he become the protector of the surrounding weaker powers, and do all he can to weaken the stronger ones. He must take precautions so that no foreigner equal in power manages to enter his new state. If he should enter, it will be because he was brought in by discontented factions driven by ambition or fear. We saw this in the case of the Aetolians who introduced the Romans into Greece;9 and in every other province in which the Romans set foot, it was with the help of some of the inhabitants. The order of things is that the moment a powerful invader takes over a state, all the weaker factions within it join forces with him, spurred on by their envy of the ruler who had wielded power over them before. In other words, the new prince has no trouble winning the weaker factions over, because they will willingly become part of his new state. He has only to see to it that they do not gain too much power and authority. With his forces and their favor, he can easily bring down those who are powerful so that he will remain the only arbiter in the land. He who does not follow this course will quickly lose all he has gained, and will be plagued by infinite difficulties while he holds power.

5. Louis XII occupied Milan in September 1499, but was ousted in February 1500 by Ludovico Sforza. Louis, however, managed to recapture Milan within two months.
6. Once Louis XII recaptured Milan, it remained under his rule until 1512.
7. The Holy League of 1511, organized by Pope Julius II, was an anti-French coalition that included Spain, Venice, the Holy Roman Empire, England, and the Swiss. The League managed to drive the French out of Milan in May 1512.
8. The Turks occupied Constantinople in 1453, and in 1457 transferred the capital of the Ottoman Empire from Edirne to Constantinople.

What People are saying about this

John M. Najemy
I still consider Atkinson's translation of The Prince the best of the many . . . out there, especially with its extensive and extraordinarily valuable commentary. (John M. Najemy, Professor of History, Cornell University, 2007)
Mario Domandi
This edition of the The Prince has three distinct and disparate objectives: to provide a fresh and accurate translation; to analyze and find the roots of Machiavelli's thought; and to collect relevant extracts from other works by Machiavelli and some contemporaries, to be used to illuminate and explicate the text. The objectives are all reached with considerable and admirable skill. The reader senses Professor Atkinson's empathy and feeling for even the tiniest movements in Machiavelli's mind. Professor Atkinson has done a great service to students and teachers of Machiavelli, who should certainly welcome this as the most useful edition of The Prince in English. (Mario Domandi, Italica, 1978)

Meet the Author

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) was an Italian historian, diplomat, and philosopher recognized as the father of modern political theory. An official of the Republic of Florence, he was forced out of office when the Medici family returned to power in 1512. He is best remembered for The Prince, the bold treatise on political strategy published five years after his death. 

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The Prince 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 105 reviews.
stitchworthy More than 1 year ago
Had to read this book for school. Not my favorite book, but should you wish to read the classic, this is definitely the best FREE version out there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AP World History Review This Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is not as it is believed to be by some people. It's not heartless, and the opposite way to rule a government. He has a clear way of stating how a ruler should rule. It's about keeping unity among citizens, and using power, without abusing it. I would recommend this book because it has a way of making you look at government differently. It is also a great way of learning how people thought on military tactics for that time period, which were important for that time period. I like how Machiavelli was quick to make his point; he wasn’t wasting any time making his points. Since there wasn’t a lot of extra writing to decipher. it helped to understand what he was writing. Since the points came straight out, it made the book shorter, which was a nice size for a book on politics. The book was still a little tough at first, but as I read it got easier, it helped that I read Introducing Machiavelli by Patrick Curry and Oscar Zarate. Even if you aren’t a history buff, this book may take time to read, but it is worth the read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Machiavelli has a bad reputation but this is because people judge him by this work alone. This is because he was not wtiting about the way things should be but the way things were/are. For another view of a differing side of his thinking read his "Discourses on Livy". The Prince is a book that should be read by everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Prince is not the heartless manual on backstabbing it is often portrayed as being. Rather Machiavelli seems most interested in issuing a wake up call to Italian leaders to get better at their jobs so as to protect Italy from becoming the plaything of foreign powers. It is interesting to note that Jefferson could read the Prince and extract not a lesson of ruthlessness, but rather the idea that a republic founded on popular support was safer and more durable than one based on the ambitions of a few selfish nobles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The truth is I thought that this book was surprisingly not as chilling as some have made it out to be, for example, I realize that when invading befriending the weak to take down the ruler but keeping those weak powers weak is by no means a nice thing to do. But in the end I saw this book as.... optimistic maybe. One thing he said stuck with me that a great ruler(one to go down in history) is not a tyrant who increases his nations size for personal gain but for the country itself. That was on my first reading, I'll reread it and maybe with more understanding I will find it as chilling as it is made out to be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Probably. *shrug*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Flys in "is this a safehaven fir dragons?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AP World History Review I would highly recommend this book because of it's shocking truths. Many people just shrug off Machiavelli because he is associated with heartless things, giving his name a negative connotation. However, if you really dig deep into his work, you can see that by following the rules he laid out, you can sustain a government. I like how Machiavelli has a practical mindset on scenarios rather than an idealistic view. Nothing is ever going to happen the ideal way, so Machiavelli gives multiple possibilities of the same situation to better suit another person's story. If you do want to read this book, I would also recommend reading Introducing Machiavelli beforehand, so that you aren't as confused as you would be just diving in to the book. Though it is a tough read, it is definitely worth it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Machiavelli was vain, a liar, gained wealth and influence by any means. He was a key player in the government of Florence in the 15th century. Along with Medici, they were bank owners, they lent money out and got more back and broke bons doing it. He was an accosiate to the most corrupt popes in history. His interests outside himself were to preserve himself. Towards the end of his life he decided to write as to how to make it in a social class like that. A book of strategies of exploitation and coercian. I give it five stars because one cannot help but admire such a crook, and how honest he is about how he became one. True story too.
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GEO1300 More than 1 year ago
A "must" read for any student of human behavior.
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modernsophist More than 1 year ago
Reading this book i can understand how Niccolo machiavelli is considered the father of political science and how his observations of rulers has affected our political atmosphere. His observations and examples arise in a time were wars for power and land were prevalent and allow for a very old understanding of the different types of political principalities and how to adequately rule over them. Anyone interested in politics or history should have this in their collection
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