An Unlikely Prince: The Life and Times of Machiavelli by Niccolo Capponi

By Niccolo Capponi

In this compelling new biography, historian Niccolò Capponi frees Machiavelli (1469–1527) from centuries of misinterpretation. Exploring the Renaissance urban of Florence, the place Machiavelli lived, Capponi finds the guy at the back of the legend. a fancy portrait of Machiavelli emerges—at as soon as a brilliantly skillful diplomat and a woefully inept liar; a pointy philosopher and an impractical dreamer; a hardnosed powerbroker and a risk-taking gambler; a calculating propagandist and an imprudent jokester.

Capponi’s intimate portrait of Machiavelli finds his habit as totally un-Machiavellian, his imaginative and prescient of the area as constrained by means of his very provincial outlook. after all, Machiavelli used to be annoyed via his personal political mess ups and totally baffled by means of the luck of his publication The Prince.

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Additional resources for An Unlikely Prince: The Life and Times of Machiavelli

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In Machiavelli’s days the standard “broad florin” (fiorino largo) was worth 6 or 7 lire, the latter value becoming stable around 1515. The Venetian ducat, at the time the international coinage of reference, more or less equaled the fiorino largo. In addition, there existed the gold florin (fiorino largo d’oro), valued about 7½ lire in 1520 and, like the lira and the “sealed florin” (fiorino di suggello), used as a unit of account. The sealed florin was equal to 4 lire, and in a letter of 1505, Totto Machiavelli mentions that 3 sealed florins were worth 2 gold ducats.

As a result, fewer and fewer people enjoyed the benefits of government. Although this arrangement was neither water tight nor capable of satisfying everyone’s ambitions—the plot of 1466 stemmed from the ranks of the Cento, while the Pazzi Conspiracy of 1478 included quite a few people whom the Medici had either snubbed or ignored—it still proved a pretty efficient power-mongering system. Although we would search in vain among Ser Bernardo’s ricordi for any comment about events related to Florentine history or politics, from his son’s Istorie Fiorentine (Florentine Histories) we get an inkling of the incidents that could have helped to shape Niccolò’s later way of thinking.

Our Niccolò would complain later in life that the income from his country property after taxes came to a mere 50 florins—equivalent more or less to the gross yearly earnings of a skilled worker. Nonetheless, we should be wary about accepting such words at face value, Machiavelli having the same griping habits of his fellow citizens, and in any case, at the time he was trying to get a tax rebate. ” Yet, if not materially rich, Niccolò’s father enjoyed a wealth of reputation among his peers as a legal thinker.

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