When our ExperiencePlus! bike tour passed through Florence I happened to notice the statue of Niccolo Machiavelli outside of the Uffizi Museum. He had the look of an opportunist; his head bowed, hand to chin. You could just tell that he was up to something. Few have been a greater victim of their own success than he. Perhaps the blame can be laid to Shakespeare or even the book Anti-Machiavel written by a Huguenot pamphleteer against Catherine de’ Medici and her Italian entourage. In either case, to be called Machiavellian is to be considered duplicitous, to be a person who acts in bad faith. If you look past the stereotype you will discover of man of wit and wisdom; a man who is rightfully considered the father of political science.
Ross King, a talented author in his own right, provides an accurate portrait of one of the great thinkers of the Italian Renaissance. In King’s book you see a picture of a man who is not the inspiration of history’s despots, but a philosopher who is dedicated to the republican ideals that were so cherished by the Italian people. You come to understand that the greatness of The Prince was not that it was a prescription for would-be dictators, but an unadulterated analysis of how power is obtained and retained. It was truly the first scientific analysis of political power and based its conclusions on not what the world should be, or even what we would like the world to be, but on what the world really is.
The real treat with Ross King’s book is that he shows the wit of Machiavelli. To this day, Machiavelli’s comedy The Mandrake is performed in Europe. The book discusses his activities in protecting Florence and his commitment to the short lived republic begun under Savonarola. You see the historian and diplomat. You see a man, who was unappreciated in his own time and misunderstood in our own. To remedy this situation, to understand Niccolo Machiavelli read Ross King’s Machiavelli.