I read everything that Ross King writes, so when I saw Machiavelli on the shelf at the Downers Grove Public Library, I had to check it out.
Has Machiavelli been maligned by historians?
Machiavelli was very untrustworthy as a diplomat and as a husband. He was very cynical as a writer of political philosophy and ribald plays. He was implicated but never convicted of assassination plots. Many people counted him as an enemy. Can anyone view him sympathetically? King provides evidence for the debates about the infamous Renaissance statesman who rubbed shoulders with tyrants, popes, and artists. (He even knew tyrannical popes who were art patrons.)
This book is not for gentle readers. King includes some grisly details about executions and some profane Machiavelli quotes. Of course, gentle readers are probably coming nowhere near this book anyway.
Why is Machiavelli still relevant? His book The Prince is part of a tradition of writing about government and public policy, which goes back to Thomas Aquinas. The tradition continues as nearly every key figure who leaves the U.S. government writes a book. As a diplomat, Machiavelli can easily be compared with Henry Kissinger. He's written books. His care for public opinion was much like that of Dick Cheney. He wrote a book. His insistence on military buildup resembles that of Donald Rumsfeld. Will he write a book?
Machiavelli is part of the Eminent Lives Series from Atlas Books. (Hey, editors, these books should have indexes!) It is a great addition for library collections.
King, Ross. Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power. Atlas Books, 2007. ISBN 9780060817176