Machiavelli and Renaissance Italy

By J. R. Hale | Go to book overview

Preface

MACHIAVELLI's books will be judged, as all books must be, on their own merits, but without a knowledge of the circumstances in which they were produced they cannot be properly understood. The reader of any of them must ask: What was its purpose? For what audience was it written? What sort of experience was the author drawing on? And the object of this book is to provide some sort of answer to these questions. For fourteen years, from 1498 to 1512, Machiavelli's career as an official of the Florentine chancery kept him in touch, during a period of almost constant crisis, with domestic politics, foreign affairs, and war, the themes of all his major works. Up to 1512, then -- the year in which he was dismissed from office on the collapse of the republican government of Soderini and the return of the exiled Medici -- we shall trace his acquisition of political experience; after that, we shall see under what conditions, he expressed it in the series of works, The Prince, the Discourses on Livy, The Art of War and The History of Florence, for which he became famous. I am concerned only with the life of Machiavelli: not at all with his resurrection as Machiavel. The history of Machiavelli's reputation is an enthralling one, but it is best insulated from an account of the development of the mart himself.1

I have not attempted to describe the political events of Machiavelli's youth. For this I refer my readers to

____________________
1
The best introduction is still L. A. Burd edition of II Principe, pp. 31-69.

-xi-

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