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Happy Happy Birthday, Niccolo Machiavelli

May 3, 2017

Happy Birthday Machiavelli. No, I mean it.



Niccolo Machiavelli was born today in Florence in 1469. It is the misfortune of some people to become a misleading adjective, and this was never more true than of poor Machiavelli. A proud Florentine and a proud republican, he was a product of a restless and discursive form of government that had contributed to Florence’s emergence as the most culturally exciting place in Europe.

His story coincides with the end of this republican experiment, and the end of Florence’s golden age. The inability of the Italian city states to combine to resist foreign invaders depressed him greatly.  These days, he is best known for The Prince – which is a kind of extended (unsuccessful) job application addressed to a young Medici ruler. The term “prince”, incidentally, does not mean (necessarily) one of royal blood, in this context, but rather a “princeps” – whoever is the governing personality within a state…

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