Augie Reads: 'The Prince'
Need help understanding the context of The Prince? Not sure about the Medici family? Wondering what was going on in Italy that prompted Machiavelli's writings? Find answers here!
The following is a list of web resources, organized by broad theme, curated by Augustana librarians to help incoming first-year students understand the 2012 Augie Reads book The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. (Please be sure to purchase the correct edition of the book: The Prince (Penguin Classics). Translated and with notes by George Bull, introduction by Anthony Grafton. ISBN-13: 978-0-14-044915-0.)
An extensive article about Machiavelli and his writings. Sections 1 - 5 provide biographical information and valuable background on The Prince. Later sections refer to some of his other works.
Art historian Liana Cheney provides a brief, insightful explanation of Machiavelli's importance in separating political theory and ethics. She interprets his description of the state as a more medical (healing) approach than a question of ethics.
This source approaches Machiavelli from a philosophical point of view.
This page from the University of Calgary's Applied History Research Group quickly summarizes the history of the Medici in Florence and their connections to the papacy. The "Return to Italy's City-States" link at the bottom will take you to another helpful synopsis, which describes the divison of Italy into city-states after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. Some of these were ruled by secular leaders, while others were controlled by the papacy.
Pope Alexander VI was pope for eleven years, beginning when Machiavelli was 23 years old. In this summary of Alexander's reign, Dr. George Craft, Professor of History and Religious Studies at California State University-Sacramento, describes his "pontificate of nepotism, greed, ruthlessness, [and] murder." This background set the scene for the development of Machiavelli's political philosophies.
In this short essay, historian Ken Pennington illustrates Machiavelli's difficulties reconciling the interdependence of politics and religion in Renaissance Italy with his personal religious beliefs.
During Machiavelli's career in 16th-century Florence, politics and art were closely tied. Enormous wealth had been accrued by bankers and traders, such as the Medici family (Machiavelli wrote The Prince for "the Magnificent Lorenzo de Medici), who in turn became powerful politicians, statesmen, and even popes. Many of the Medici were keenly interested in the arts and used their wealth to enlist artists such as Botticelli, Leonardo, and Michelangelo to decorate palaces, churches, and civic structures. The arts flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy largely because of the intellect and wealth of individual patrons.
Created by two art historians with content now contributed by many others, Smarthistory offers audio, video, images, and text to introduce you to the major artists of style of the Renaissance in Florence and other regions.
Maintained by Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe, professor of art history at Sweet Briar College, this site includes an exhaustive list of links to web sites on Renaissance art in Italy.
Part of a larger site of timelines, essays, and works of art from the Metropolitian Museum of Art in New York, this page focuses on Italy during the Renaissance. The "Overview" and "Key Events" sections provide context for the overlap between the worlds of art and politics during this period.
Take a "Journey Through the Renaissance" in a travelogue that uses text, images, and sound to evoke the period. This journey was produced by high school students for students. The images, sound, and text can be used by you in your own work. In addition to art, this site covers politics, music, science, and history.
Although Machiavelli wrote The Prince 500 years ago, his ideas remain relevant today. The articles below suggest why. The first, a lecture by a political scientist, explains Machiavelli's importance to twenty-first century international relations, while the second, a newspaper article, summarizes the most influential of Machiavelli's ideas.
This is a lecture given in 2005 by a political science professor, Scott Erb, from the University of Maine at Farmington. Sections I and II review Machiavelli's life and thought; sections III and IV analyze Machiavelli's relevance to the world today, especially international relations.
This 1999 article from The Washington Post summarizes Machiavelli's life and quotes several scholars' ideas about why he remains important today.
These three articles all apply Machiavelli's ideas to current issues. As you read them, consider how your perspective compares to the authors'. Do you agree? Disagree? What do you think of the way each author applies Machiavelli's ideas? Do the authors interpret The Prince correctly?
This article from the magazine Forbes argues that Machiavelli can help us understand and negotiate power relationships in our everyday lives. The article is by Ian Demack, who has written a book about Machiavelli's relevance to the contemporary business world.
This article excerpts a lecture given in 1997 by Michael Ledeen, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The AEI is a conservative think tank, and this lecture reflects that political viewpoint. Although the lecture was delivered during the Clinton Administration and refers at times to the Clinton presidency, its arguments about war and leadership in the United States may still be relevant today.
This article from Salon.com applies a specific passage from The Prince to the negotiations over universal health care that led up to the passage of the new law in 2010. The author, Michael Lind, supports universal health care and argues that President Obama should have taken a Machiavellian approach to passing the law.
Questions to Consider while Reading The Prince
When you arrive on campus in August, you will participate in a small group discussion and other activities related to The Prince. Click here to download a list of questions related to major themes of The Prince. Think about these questions while you read in order to be better prepared to discuss the text when you get to Augustana this fall.