Book Review: The Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli

The Prince is an extended analysis of how to acquire and maintain political power. It extends through 26 chapters and in the opening of the book is a dedication to Lorenzo de Medici.  In this dedication, the author discusses his intention to analyze the conduct of a wide array of great characters int eh book and the various principles of governance that they display. In doing this analysis the author so hopes that he will be able to enlighten and please the Medici family and thereby win favor in their eyes.

in the books lengthy 26 chapters a lot of information is discussed which can consequently be divided into four section: Chapters 1-11 endeavour sto discuss the different types of principalities or states; Chapter 12-14 seeks to discuss the different types of armies and the ideal conduct that a prince as a military leader should espous; Chapter 15-23 analyzes the character traits and the overall behavior of the prince and the last two chapters Chapters  24-26 discusses the desperate Italian political situation. In the final chapter of the book there is a concluding plea for the family to supply the prince who will be able to lead Italy out of its humiliation.

The types of Principalities

Machiavelli lists four types of principalities

  • Hereditary principalities, which are actually inherited by the ruler
  • Mixed principalities, which are territories that have been annexed to the ruler’s existing territories
  • New principalities, which may be acquired by several methods: by one’s own power, by the power of others, y criminal acts or extreme cruelty, or by the will of the people ( civic  principalities)
  • Ecclesiastical principalities, namely the Papal States belonging to the Catholic Church.

The types of Armies

A prince must  always pay close attention to all of the various military affairs he will have to undertake if he seeks and wants to remain n power.  The author fully knowledgeable of  this state of affairs lists four types of amies:

  1. Mercenaries or hired soldieres. This type of armies are greatly dangerous and unreliable.
  2. Auxiliaries, these types of troops are the ones who have been loaned to you by other rulers- they are also dangerous and unreliable.
  3. Native troops. These one is composed of one’s own citizens or subjects. This is the most desirable kind.
  4. Mixed troops. This is a combination of native troops and mercenaries or auxiliaries-stillless desirable than a completely native army.

The author analyzes the character and behavior of princes and  comes u p with the following conclusions:

  1. that it is better to be stingy than to be generous.
  2. that it is better to be cruel than merciful.
  3. It is better to break promises if keeping them would be against one’s interests.
  4. Princes must avoid making themselves hated and despised; the goodwill of the people is a better defence as compared to any forteress.
  5. Princes ought to undertake a variety of great projects to enhance their reputation
  6. Princes should choose wise advisers and avoid flatterers
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