"The Prince" (Italian: "Il Principe") is a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli. From correspondence a version appears to have been distributed in 1513, using a Latin title, "De Principatibus" ("About Principalities"). However, the printed version was not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli's death. This was done with the permission of the Medici pope Clement VII, but "long before then, in fact since the first appearance of the 'Prince' in manuscript, controversy had swirled about his writings." Although it was written as if it were a traditional work in the "mirrors for princes" style, it is generally agreed that it was especially innovative. This is only partly because it was written in the vernacular Italian rather than Latin, a practice which had become increasingly popular since the publication of Dante's "Divine Comedy" and other works of Renaissance literature. "The Prince" is sometimes claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning how to consider politics and ethics. Although it is relatively short, the treatise is the most remembered of Machiavelli's works and the one most responsible for bringing the word "Machiavellian" into usage as a pejorative. It also helped make "Old Nick" an English term for the devil, and even contributed to the modern negative connotations of the words "politics" and "politician" in western countries. In terms of subject matter it overlaps with the much longer "Discourses on Livy," which was written a few years later. In its use of near-contemporary Italians as examples of people who perpetrated criminal deeds for politics, another lesser-known work by Machiavelli which "The Prince" has been compared to is the "Life of Castruccio Castracani.
About the Author
Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (3 May 1469 - 21 June 1527) was an Italian Renaissance historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist, and writer. He has often been called the founder of modern political science. He was for many years a senior official in the Florentine Republic, with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He also wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned in the Italian language. He was secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. He wrote his most renowned work "The Prince" ("Il Principe") in 1513. "Machiavellianism" is a widely used negative term to characterize unscrupulous politicians of the sort Machiavelli described most famously in "The Prince." Machiavelli described immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and killing innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. He even seemed to endorse it in some situations. The book itself gained notoriety when some readers claimed that the author was teaching evil, and providing "evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power." The term "Machiavellian" is often associated with political deceit, deviousness, and "realpolitik." On the other hand, many commentators, such as Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot, have argued that Machiavelli was actually a Republican, even when writing "The Prince," and his writings were an inspiration to Enlightenment proponents of modern democratic political philosophy.