Machiavelli: A Biography

Machiavelli: A Biography

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Niccolò Machiavelli is the most influential political writer of all time. His name has become synonymous with cynical scheming and the selfish pursuit of power, but the real Machiavelli, says Miles Unger, was a deeply humane and perceptive writer whose controversial theories were a response to the violence and corruption he saw around him.

Machiavelli’s philosophy was shaped by the tumultuous age in which he lived, an age of towering geniuses and brutal tyrants. His first political mission was to spy on the fire-and-brimstone preacher Savonarola. He was on intimate terms with Leonardo and Michelangelo. As a diplomat, he matched wits with the corrupt Pope Alexander VI and his son, the infamous Cesare Borgia, whose violent career served as a model for The Prince. Analyzing their successes and failures, Machiavelli developed his revolutionary approach to power politics. His famous book is a guide that is based on the world as it is, not as it should be.

Miles Unger has relied on original Italian sources as well as his own deep knowledge of Florence in writing this fascinating and authoritative account of a genius whose work remains as relevant today as when he wrote it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781094131535
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publication date: 04/28/2020
Sales rank: 1,142,214
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 5.60(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

Miles J. Unger, a contributing writer to The New York Times and former managing editor of Art New England, is an art historian and the author of Magnifico, a biography of Lorenzo de’Medici. He lives in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Select Cast of Characters ix

Prologue: The Malice of Fate 1

I Born in Poverty 13

II A Sword Unsheathed 39

III The Civil Servant 71

IV Sir Nihil 93

V Exit the Dragon 121

VI Men of Low and Poor Station 141

VII The Stars Align 157

VIII Reversal of Fortune 177

IX Dismissed, Deprived, and Totally Removed 199

X The Prince 215

XI Vita Contemplativa 247

XII The Sage of the Garden 273

XIII Nightmare and Dream 311

XIV Finger of Satan 335

Notes 353

Bibliography 373

Index 387

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This is a superb biography, of interest to anybody — not just management consultants — trying to get along in the contemporary world. . . . Unger is superb at providing context, so readers grasp how Machiavelli's thinking was received during his lifetime, how it has been interpreted/misinterpreted through the centuries, and how it offers meaning in the 21st century."

—Steve Weinberg, USA Today

"A thoughtful and well-informed study of the life of the Florentine diplomat and government bureaucrat. . . . Unger presents a side of the cynical and jaded diplomat rarely known by even those who had read Machiavelli’s notorious collection of practical and often amoral advice to the prospective ruler."

—Karl Rove

"Unger skillfully narrates the details of a life led during one of the greatest periods of artistic, political, and literary activity in Western history. . . . [He] does a wonderful job of bringing Machiavelli to life."

—Alan Wolfe, The New Republic

"A captivating biography of Italian philosopher and playwright Niccolò Machiavelli. . . . Lively, well-researched portrait of a master political strategist."

Kirkus Reviews

"An excellent analysis of the influential thinker and his renowned writings."


"Excellent. . . . wonderfully readable."

—Jessica Warner, National Post

"For most people, 'Machiavellian' means ruthless, the application of power without remorse. Thanks to a fascinating portrait by Miles J. Unger, the real Machiavelli comes across the centuries as something more: a man with whom many of us might like to spend a few hours in rich conversation."

—Repps Hudson, St. Louis Post-Disptach

"A wonderful biography. . . . Unger includes details you didn't hear in World History 101, details that make fascinating reading and should put the book on the list of any history buff."

—John Monaghan, The Providence Journal-Bulletin

Customer Reviews