The Prince Must Read History

“As for intellectual training, the prince must read history, studying the actions of eminent men to see how they conducted themselves during war and to discover the reasons for their victories or their defeats, so that he can avoid the latter and imitate the former.  Above all, he must read history so that he can do what eminent men have done before him: taken as their model some historical figure who has been praised and honoured; and always kept his deeds and actions before them.  In this way, it is said, Alexander the Great imitated Achilles; Caesar imitated Alexander; and Scipio, Cyrus.”  Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XIV. [Emphasis added]

Machiavelli served in the government of the Republic of Florence in the early 1500s.  He focused on diplomacy and the military.  After the overthrow of the government in 1512, Machiavelli lost his job and almost lost his life.  In 1513 the new government sent him into exile to live in the Tuscan countryside.  He wrote the short book, known as The Prince, as a gift for the new rulers of Florence.  However, they never allowed him to serve in Florentine government again.  The quote above demonstrates Machiavelli’s understanding that the study of history was a practical necessity for any political leader’s success.

This entry was posted in history, Machiavelli. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.