Machiavelli wrote this book, The Prince,which is about becomming a political

leader from examples of his own life. Niccolo Machiavelli lived from 1469 to 1527, saw

what we now consider the height of the Italian Renaissance- a period that produced some

of Italy's greatest achievements in the arts and sciences, but that also produced horrible

scandals and the establishment of foreign domination over the peninsula. Brought up

while members of the powerful Medici family were masters of Florence, he studied the

classics and learned to read and write in Latin. He also showed a keen interest in, and the

ability to learn from, the world around him. He was a diplomat, a student of history, and

a writer of comedy, and his sharp and unique insights changed the face of political

science forever.

Machiavelli was born in Florence on May 3, 1469. We first hear of him playing

an active role in the affairs of his native city in 1498, when the government dominated by

Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican friar whose puritanical views had influenced

Florence for the preceding four years, fell from power. Therefore, the post was left

unoccupied, but after a short delay the little known name of Niccolo Machiavelli was

put forward as a possible replacement. He was only twenty-nine years old at the time and

apparently had no previous administrative experience. His nomination was confirmed,

however, and he was appointed second chancellor of the Florentine Republic. It was an

enormous opportunity, and the experiences and insights he would gain in the post would

be used later in writing The Prince.

At the time Machiavelli entered public service, there were already

well-established standards for filling major administrative positions in Florentine

government. In addition to exhibiting diplomatic skill, civil servants were expected to

display competence in the "humane disciplines." These disciplines had been derived from

ancient Roman sources especially from the orator and statesman Cicero, who had written

about the need for formal study of Latin, rhetoric, history, moral philosophy, and politics

to prepare a student for professional service to the community. Ultimately, they were the

ancestor of the "humanities," or liberal arts curriculum in contemporary education.

The popularity of the humanistic ideals in Florentine government help explain how

Machiavelli came to be appointed to a responsible government post at such an early age.

His family, though neither rich nor aristocratic, were closely allied with the city's leading


Machiavelli's father, Bernardo, a lawyer, had acquaintance with several

distinguished humanist scholars. According to his father’s diary, Machiavelli began

formal education at the age of seven, which included the study of Latin, the language that

was the passport to the world of humanistic learning. By the time Machiavelli was twelve

he had graduated from primary school and was enrolled in private classes. Later, he was

accepted at the University of Florence, where he received training in the

humanities, literature, and sciences from Marcello Adriani, who succeeded Scala as first

chancellor of Florence.

During the next fourteen years, Machiavelli was sent on numerous diplomatic

missions to France, Switzerland, and Germany. His observations abroad resulted in many

of the ideas that form the basis for the major statements found in his political works. In

The Prince, for example, Machiavelli comments at length on Germany's

well-fortified cities and evaluates the weak leadership of the French king, Louis XII.

Word Count: 557

Related Essays on History: European