He is one of the few figures in history whose name has become an adjective. Everyone has heard of him, yet few read his most important works. Miles Unger tells readers who Machiavelli really was and why he remains important today. Few political philosophers are more often referred to and more often misunderstood than Machiavelli. He was truly a product of the Renaissance, and as much a revolutionary in the field of political philosophy as Leonardo or Michelangelo were in painting and sculpture. He watched his native Florence lose its independence to the French, thanks to poor leadership from the Medici successors to the great Lorenzo (Il Magnifico). Machiavelli was a keen observer of people, and he spent years studying events and people before writing his famous books. They were based on observations of human nature that were as perceptive as Shakespeare's. Machiavelli was modern in another sense: he was a self-made man. Descended from minor nobility, he grew up in a household that was run by an incompetent father. He was well educated and smart, and he entered government service as a clerk. He eventually worked his way to ambassador, where he learned the art of statecraft. He became an important figure in the Florentine state but was defeated by the deposed Medici and Pope Julius II. He was tortured but ultimately freed by the restored Medici. No longer employed, he retired to his home to write the books for which he is remembered. His great work The Prince was considered too dangerous to publish during his lifetime and was published only after Machiavelli's death.
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