96. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (1532)
Dates: 2/1/20 – 2/9/20 (8 days)
Basic Plot: Italian diplomat, Machiavelli, wrote a treatise about how princes ought to rule.
Experience Before Reading: “The end justifies the means.” I took AP European History way back in high school, so I was pretty familiar with the premise of the book. That and when my boyfriend saw the list of books, he got excited about this one. He’s read it many times and let me borrow his personal copy (thank you!)
Takeaway: I think I read this book at the wrong time in my life. At a time when I’m doing a lot of academic reading, this book felt like a chore. I found myself skimming for the main points which is how I read court cases – not painting a picture in my head like these other books.
That being said, the content is interesting. It’s often considered the first political philosophy writing and I enjoyed having something as complex as a prince’s ruling experience codified into right and wrong. I felt like it was a college thesis of someone’s experience exploring European history.
It was also very entertaining to think that this is all true. The stories told and the nobles and the common folk and the importance of religion are so far detached from modern society and sound more Game of Thrones-esque than reality.
But these concepts are not far off. Machiavelli spends a chapter talking about how a prince should focus winning the approval of the people over the nobility because they can protect you if the nobility turn on you. Without getting too political, that’s pretty much how Trump won the presidency in 2016 – he had support of a lot of “common folk”.
These ideas haven’t faded away over time and that’s something to appreciate. Whether he was well beyond his years or not doesn’t take away from the power of the conclusions. I’d love to try these stories again when I’m not in school.
Would I Recommend It?: Maybe. If you have an interest in history and philosophy, I might toss it your way.