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Machiavelli: A Man Misunderstood Paperback – 1 Dec 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (1 Dec 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349115990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115993
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


[Machiavelli] was a great thinker and a greater artist, and Michael White has done as much as anyone could to convince us of his genius (John Banville, IRISH TIMES)

He [Machiavelli] has been painted as a corrupt, cruel, vindictive social commentator with little time for human emotion, but White successfully argues that Machiavelli is actually an author of remarkable foresight who manages to assess the Realpolitik of (GLASGOW HERALD)

White's great gift as a writer is his ability to blow life into seemingly stodgy material. Renaissance politics isn't everyone's cup of tea, but White makes it manageable without dumbing it down. (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

A fantastic historical read. (DAILY EXPRESS)

Book Description

* In this carefully researched account, acclaimed biographer, Michael White tells the story of Machiavelli's life and reveals how his ideas have been misunderstood and his name misappropriated as a result.

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Green Man Music on 19 Jan 2006
Format: Paperback
"Machiavelli: A Man Misunderstood" seeks to detail the complex life and times of Niccolo Machiavelli in order to explain the resoning behind his contentious writings such as "The Prince", which have often been cited as an encouragement to leaders to abuse their positions.
However Machiavelli himself was not this kind of material. What he was, however, was bluntly honest. A diplomat who served the Florentine government for much of his life, he rubbed shoulders with the great and the bad, often being sent into difficult situations where he had to negotiate almost impossible terms with, amongst others, the eternally feuding French crown and the Pope, in order to secure stability for the army-less state of Florence. Florecnce was at the time caught between the warring superpowers of the day; the Papacy, the French Crown, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.
When the Pope installed a new pro-Papal government in Florence Machiavelli, with his athiest vews and his previous aliegences, soon found himself out on his ear, imprisoned on trumped-up charges and on the wrong side of the Pope and the ruling classes, who are of course the writers of history and the first to portray him in the bad light he has subsequently been shown in.
The author shows how Machiavelli wrote "The Prince" from a point of brutal truth, showing how leaders who are prepared to be ruthless to the point of murder in getting their way, will be the ones who run successful regimes. It seems a cruel philosophy, but Machiavelli writes from his own experiences, and giving this fact and the time in which he was living, his words make much more sense.
And looking at how ruthless some of today's world's successful leaders actully still are, he could be cited as accurate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Domino on 15 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed the book. It was very well written. I felt that the author gave me a real insight into Machiavelli the man. I would agree that he was a man misunderstood in that the the Prince was a book about what he observed in rulers rather than his own theory on how rulers should rule. The author argues that Machiavelli persevered because of his political ideals and loyalty to Florence. This may have been true but what came across to me also was that Machiavelli was a frustrated 'wannabe ruler'. The reluctance of his superiors in Florance to deal directly with other powerful people (fear of being captured and killed probably) gave Machiavelli the opportunity to act as go between. This exposed Machiavelli to many types of rulers/circumstances and gave him a unique experience (compared to his dithering superiors in Florance). In someways the book is a little sad in that it demonstrated his tremendous insight to what makes a great leader but he never got the chance to rule at the highest level and put into practice what he had learned. Many of the observations on rulers still apply today which shows why it is viewed as a classic. The book is also a comfort to those of us who believe we could do a better job than those who rule us (at home, in organisations, nationally and internally). If you have given everything to get to the top but were frustrated due to lack of connections/education or just bad luck then Machiavelli is the man for you (and this is the book for you). You will come away feeling at least someone understands!!
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Format: Paperback
.. that write what men do, and not what they ought to do, ` (Francis Bacon `The Advancement of Learning' 1605)

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was an extraordinary man living in tumultuous times. While he is most famous today as the author of `The Prince' (not published until after his death), his other works include `The Art of War', eight volumes of Florentine histories as well as poems and plays. In respect of his writing Machiavelli was better known as a comic author during his lifetime because of his plays `Mandragola' and `Clizia'.

`The Prince' was based on observations of Cesare Borgia. Its brutal truth: that leaders who are prepared to be ruthless are those who are successful may not be palatable be accurately reflects Machiavelli's experience. This book looks beyond `The Prince' to the man Niccolo Machiavelli himself and the times in which he lived. Renaissance politics, the roles of various popes and of the Medici family are part of the backdrop. In Machiavelli's vision of an ideal government, the people (not a collective whole, but a small powerful elite) worked with the ruler. This is not democracy as most of us understand it today, but neither is it tyranny. It is ironic that Machiavelli is best remembered for his observations in `The Prince' when for much of his life Machiavelli effectively served the government of Florence.

I think that Machiavelli has been misrepresented and misinterpreted over the past 500 years, which has led to some (at least) misunderstanding. But to really appreciate the man and his work, it is necessary to appreciate the times in which he lived and understand that reputations can be made and destroyed by the capricious nature of politics.

I enjoyed this book and learned from it. It contains a timeline for the life and times of Machiavelli, a list of his principal works and references for those moved to learn more.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Republicara on 22 Feb 2007
Format: Paperback
It's curious how, despite his name being bandied with wonderous dexterity, very little is generally known of the life of this seminal writer. This book will more than bridge the gap, pushing back the neat images and buzz-words that we mistake for the man himself in current usage. Under Michael White's hands he emmerges, not only in context but in surprising depth. Here he is a man disturbingly alive and almost tangible. There is liveliness and authority in the narrative, and it doesn't slide too far in either direction. It reads very easily, and is over far too soon! I wish I could write like this.....
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