Should leaders be feared or loved? Can dictators give rise to democracy? Should rulers have morals or wear them like a mask? Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince puts forth unsettling questions like these, whose answers redefined centuries of political wisdom. But what does it really mean to be Machiavellian?
These 24 lectures are more than just a close reading of one of the great books of Western history. They're a revealing investigation of the historical context of Machiavelli's philosophical views, his tumultuous relationship with Florentine politics, his reception by his contemporaries and by 20th-century scholars, and his lasting influence on everyone from William Shakespeare to Joseph Stalin.
Throughout the lectures, you'll dive deeply into the work's most important chapters to survey their main insights; read between the lines to uncover hidden meanings, inspirations, and ironies; learn how scholars have debated their historical inspiration and importance; and discover the author's startling imagery and sometimes beautiful language. Going beyond the commonly held vision of Renaissance Italy as a place of creative genius, Professor Landon reveals the drama and terror of Machiavelli's life and world, including his relationships to the city of Florence, the powerful Medici family, and the villainous Cesare Borgia (Machiavelli's ideal prince).
For those who have already heard The Prince, prepare to engage with the text on a deeper level than ever before. And for those who've always wanted to listen to this important book, this is your introduction to one man's revolutionary beliefs about achieving - and maintaining - power.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Robert Sciberras on 30-11-16

excellent overview of the Prince.

The lecture series supports understanding and gives context to The Prince, which is mostly impenetrable when read raw.

The delivery is pleasant.

The organisation of ideas flows logically and is very engaging.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Steve on 20-01-17

Didn't get it

I get Machiavelli try to see the world as it is and do what he thought was necessary to get what he wanted, but how does that make him a genius? The author tells that Machiavelli is such a genius but does not show it.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Cherie Teasdale on 21-03-17


Professor Landon is a dazzling lecturer. He effectively weaves the life and story of Nicolo Machiavelli, the person, and his book, The Prince, with the broader geopolitical events of the Italian peninsula and the burgeoning religious wars in Europe, which ensconced his thought and work.

Professor Landon is not an apologist for The Prince. I would call him an intimate biographer of Nicolo, while drawing on the discipline of historiography to measure the ever evolving influence. He also draws on the work of others to bring greater depth and a broader lense to his subject matter.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Steve Goppert on 16-08-17

The history is destroyed by moralizing and biases.

What disappointed you about Books that Matter: The Prince?

I selected this course because I was interested in the history of the time of Machiavelli. It is an interesting and complex era. Some of the greatest artists and thinkers, for example Da Vinci, were contemporizes of Machiavelli in Renaissance Florence. It was also a time when the Christian Church wielded a great deal of power and was not above war and murder to accomplish it's ends. I had heard of The Prince and knew the definition of "Machiavellian". So who was this man? What did he write that earned him a infamous place in history?

The course contains interesting facts about the time an place and the man himself. There is an attempt to present a balanced, factual view of Machiavelli. Why then to I give the course a 1?

The gross flaw in the course was not apparent at first. In retrospect the first hints were in apology for the facts being violent and offensive. I assumed that the professor is used to teaching college age students who recently have demonstrated a great sensitivity to things that offend them and let it go. As the course progresses, more and more adjectives such a "evil" and "immoral" are used the describe the historic individuals in the course. The moral judgments increased through the course to the point that I was no longer able to filter them out and concentrate on the historical facts being presented.

By way of background, I teach at the graduate level in a different field for a program associated with George Washington University. As an instructor I have an obligation to present facts such as research findings and experiential information just as they are without inserting my own opinions and biases. I leave it to the students to make their own judgments. One of the subjects I teach is business ethics and I must confess it is sometimes a challenge to remain neutral in my presentation. A question ask is this: Is there a difference between personal and business ethics? I leave it to the students to evaluate there and others answer. Further, I have spent seven decades living, learning and observing contemporary history.

By putting so much moralizing in the course, it is my opinion, that Landon has given up his role as a dispassionate observe and reporter of history. This disqualifies him in my as a reliable source. Further, the actions of historic figures must, and can only be interpreted in the context of the culture and associated ethical values of the time. To do otherwise can lead to a society where history is rewritten and artifacts and writings from the period destroyed. The Christian church did such things following the "Romafacation" of the church. More recently the Taliban did the same in Afghanistan destroying ancient Buddhist monuments and violently repressing the people.

What is more distressing to me is watching folks in the USA in the present moment, many of whom may have received and education from such an Langdon, full of judgments and moralizing about history, destroying statues of Confederates because they are offended by slavery. Slavery is a fact of history in most cultures until the past couple of centuries. Landon does no service to history by his constant moralizing and may do a disservice to his country by interpreting history with contemporary values. I do not think I am being extreme by stating educating impressionable young people with courses full of judgments and moralizing contributes to the desire to destroy "offensive" history. This destruction can lead eventually to a culture that is repressive of individual thought and freedom as did the Christian church of the middle ages, the Chinese cultural revolution under Mao, the Taliban to name a few. The final irony is the offended left wing extremists are using Machiavellian amoral tactics to achieve "good" ends. At least I got that much out of the course.

What three words best describe Professor William Landon’s performance?

clear logical biased

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Books that Matter: The Prince?

All of the moralizing.

Any additional comments?

Sadness for the state of our educational system overall. Disappointed that I could not finish the course.

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12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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