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Machiavelli: A Man Misunderstood [Paperback]

Michael White
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Dec 2005

Machiavellian: a person who adopts the principles recommended, or supposed to have been recommended, by Machiavelli in his treatise on statecraft; a person who practises expediency in preference to morality; an intriguer or schemer. Usu. derogatory.'

For more than five hundred years the name Machiavelli has resonated through the world of politics and power. He was an extraordinary man living in an extraordinary age: a brilliant thinker and theorist who was also a consumate diplomat. In this new biography of the Florentine political theorist and statesman, Michael White goes beyond our preconceptions to draw an objective picture of the author of THE PRINCE and THE ART OF WAR, who has been characterised for posterity as a corrupt, power-hungry demon whose works encouraged tyrants to kill and control. He does so by placing Machiavelli's remarkable life in the context of the Renaissance and its luminaries, such as the Borgias and Leonardo da Vinci.

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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: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 481,414 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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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Behind A Byword For Tyranny 19 Jan 2006
"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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best yet! 22 Feb 2007
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We want more! 2 Oct 2006
I picked this up during our trip to Florence as I had finished the book I took on holiday. I was not a fan of non-fiction or biographies, but now I am definitely converted, and I can't want to read more of Michael White's books. Well written, easy to read and entertaining!
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4.0 out of 5 stars engaging 27 Oct 2011
By John
I found this a highly engaging account of Machiavelli largely from the historical scene setting painting the picture in which Machievelli existed. I did not get as much a sense of the man, from the book I could see how he fitted into world affairs of the time, but not so much a sense of who he was
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