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.

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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 …