The Prince, written sometime in the early 16th century byNiccolo Machiavelli
(1469-1527), is widely considered to be thefirst book written explicitly as an
examination of political science.Among the most original thinkers of the Renaissance,
throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries his name would be synonymous with
cruelty, deviousness, and purposefully destructive rationality.No political thinker was
ever more demonized or misunderstood than Machiavelli. The main source of this
misunderstanding, as well as the source of debate that continues to this day among
political thinkers and historians, is Machiavelli's most influential and widely read
treatise on government, The Prince, a remarkably short book that attempts to lay out
methods to secure and maintain political power.It seems that Machiavelli really had no
strongpolitical commitments, living more of the life of professional diplomat, working
for whomever was in power at the time. When the Medici came to power, they never
fully trusted him since he had been an important official in the former Republic. They
imprisoned and tortured him in 1513 and eventually banished him to his country estate at
San Casciano. It was during his exile in San Casciano, when he was desperate to get back
into government, that he wrote The Princefor the express purpose of currying favor
with and getting a job in the Medici government.
Machiavelli was thefirst to discuss politics and social phenomena in their own
terms without any thought toward traditional ethics or morals. In many ways you could
consider Machiavelli to be thefirst major Western thinker to apply the strictly scientific
method of the classical Greeks and Romans to politics. He did so by observing the
phenomena of politics, studying as many of the writings on the subject as he could, and