Machiavelli was born in Florence, in 1496. His father was a lawyer, and his family lived modestly, but was not rich. Florence in the 15th century was an independent city, owing political allegiance to no one. It was a center of learning and of considerable artistic creativity. In the 15th members of the Medici family ruled it. The Medici family was temporarily expelled from Florence in 1494, and was replaced by a friar named Savonarola who carried on with campaigns against corruption. In 1497 he was excommunicated by the pope, and later executed.
A month after his execution Machiavelli was appointed as secretary to the Second Chancery. His duties involved mire than merely keeping the records. He was called to handle the municipal problems and was frequently asked to participate in diplomatic negotiations with foreign powers. He held this position for 15 years. In 1512, the Medici family came back into power in Florence. With the return of the Medici’s Machiavelli lost his post in the Florentine government and accused of conspiring to overthrow the government, and consequently he was thrown in prison and tortured. After his imprisonment, and until his death, he wrote prolifically for 14 years. At this time he saw politics as survival of the fittest.
In the Prince, his most famous work, Machiavelli believes that rulers should be shrewd, calculating and manipulating, in order to get to a particular goal. The book however, is not true to his real political beliefs, b/c he wrote the book in an attempt to get a job, ironically, it wasn’t published until after his death. Machiavelli did have practical knowledge of statecraft. His assessments of the strengths and weakness of these leaders were significant part of his diplomatic dispatches to Florence, and he clearly relied upon them in composing the Prince.
The Prince has 4 sections in which Machiavelli organizes his ideas. The 1st part is organized around the theme of how different forms of states can be governed and maintained. States are classified as either principalities or republics. The republic is discussed in the Discourses. The topic at hand in the Prince are the principalities, and they are gained through the arms of others, or one’s own arms, or through fortunes, or by virtue. Fortune is described as good luck, and virtue as cleverness. With the second part of the book, Machiavelli turns to discussing the forms of states to the general methods to be used for founding and preserving them, and this requires knowledge of military affairs. The third section of the book, is a major part. Here, he presents the actual methods and procedures of a prince in dealing with his subjects and friends. The 4th section is the last three chapters of the Prince. These chapters analyze the situation in Italy during Machiavelis time.
Throughout the work there are several reoccurring themes, such as power, fortune and virtue, appearance, means and ends, glory and individualism....