Niccolo Machiavelli Research Paper

This sample Niccolo Machiavelli Research Paper is published for educational and informational purposes only. Free research papers are not written by our writers, they are contributed by users, so we are not responsible for the content of this free sample paper. If you want to buy a high quality research paper on history topics at affordable price please use custom research paper writing services.

Niccolo Machiavelli has exerted an extraordinary influence on modern thought and practice throughout the world. His writings and career are subject to varied interpretations, but the most common have given rise to a word found in most languages, Machiavellianism, suggesting deceit, tyranny, and the dictum that the end justifies the means.

Born in Florence in 1469, Niccolo Machiavelli was one of four children of Bernardo Machiavelli, an impoverished lawyer whose ancestors had held important political positions until the rise of the de’ Medici dynasty. Niccolo received a mediocre education, but his father’s well-stocked library provided some compensation. Machiavelli’s own writings would eventually find a prominent place in the Western canon, and thus on the shelves of libraries around the world—although his most important work, The Prince—a manual predicated on his thesis that humankind is essentially evil, and in which he thus advised rulers to be constantly vigilant—was banned by the Catholic Church soon after publication.

In early adulthood Machiavelli witnessed a momentous event that would help shape his character and career. In 1494 King Charles VIII of France invaded Italy to press a claim to the kingdom of Naples. The four dominant city-states—Florence, Venice, Milan, and the Papal States—were thrown into turmoil. In Florence the incompetent ruler, Piero de’ Medici, was forced into exile, and a republic was established. On 19 June 1498 Machiavelli was elected to the important post of secretary of the second chancery, a government organ dealing with both domestic and foreign affairs.

Machiavelli frequently undertook diplomatic missions, on which his primary responsibility was to observe and report back to Florence. He proved to be an astute observer. Among the major political figures whom he visited were King Louis XII of France; Maximilian I, Holy Roman emperor; Pope Julius II; and Cesare Borgia, the warrior son of Pope Alexander VI and the ruler of the papal state Romagna. None made a greater impression on him than Cesare Borgia.

In 1512 Spanish troops from the kingdom of Naples entered Tuscany and restored Florence to de’ Medici rule. Machiavelli was summarily dismissed from the government and briefly imprisoned. Bereft of a job, he retired with his wife and children to the family villa Sant’Andrea, outside of Florence. Most of his life after 1513 was spent in writing, and his use of Italian for his writings helped to promote Italian as a major literary language.

Machiavelli’s most important work was The Prince, a manual for rulers that he completed in December 1513. He began his manual with the assertion that he was writing a realistic guidebook, based on his own experience. Predicated on his thesis that humankind is essentially evil, he advised rulers to be constantly vigilant. They must be perceived as being just, compassionate, religious, and trustworthy, but even if they actually possessed such virtuous characteristics, they must be prepared to abandon them when it suited their own interests. A prince should wish to be feared rather than loved, if he has to choose between fear and love. He should not object to being considered a miser because too much generosity leads to higher taxes and thus alienates the people. Machiavelli also urged rulers to take advantage of opportunities and not assume that chance, or “fortune,” is the major determinant of events. The ruler most worthy of emulation, according to Machiavelli, was Cesare Borgia because he knew how to combine law and order with deceit, political assassination, and secrecy. The Prince ended with a highly emotional appeal to Lorenzo de’ Medici, to whom the book was flatteringly dedicated, to form a national army and drive foreigners out of Italy. Because the ideas expressed in The Prince ran counter to Christian morality, the book was subsequently condemned and placed on the Index of Prohibited Books of the Catholic Church.

After The Prince Machiavelli resumed writing a book he had begun earlier, The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy. Contrary to his support of autocracy in The Prince, he now advocated the type of government that had existed under the Roman republic. He saw in this republic a balance between the interests of the aristocracy and those of the common people. He praised Rome’s pagan religion as a necessary foundation for the state, unlike the Roman Catholicism of his own day, which he blamed for Italian corruption and weakness.

During this period of enforced retirement Machiavelli turned his facile pen to other literary forms, such as poetry, drama, and biography. His most successful genre was drama, and his The Mandrake Root, an amusing as well as anticlerical comedy, attracted wide audiences. The Mandrake Root, like his novella Tale of Belagor, the Devil That Took a Wife, also reflected contempt for women that verged on misogyny.

After Lorenzo de’ Medici’s death in 1519, Machiavelli’s relations with the de’ Medici family improved. He was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici and the University of Florence to produce a history of Florence. Beginning the narrative with the fall of Rome, he traced Florentine history to 1492. In describing the de’ Medici period he wrote more as a fawning politician than as a historian.

In 1525, as Machiavelli prepared to present his Florentine Histories to Pope Clement VII (the former Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici), the Italian peninsula was threatened by Charles V, Holy Roman emperor and king of Spain. Two years later Charles V’s Spanish infantry and German Lutheran troops sacked Rome, causing the de’ Medici Pope Clement VII to take refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo and the de’ Medici government in Florence to collapse.

A republic was quickly reestablished in Florence, but because Machiavelli had been associated with the de’ Medicis, he was excluded from office, much to his distress. He died on 21 June 1527 and was buried in the Church of Santa Croce. A contradictory figure in his own time, Machiavelli continues to elicit blame and praise in the twenty-first century, but his influence on political thought is undeniable.


  1. Butterfield, H. (1956). The statecraft of Machiavelli. New York: Macmillan.
  2. Ledeen, M. (1999). Machiavelli on modern leadership: Why Machiavelli’s iron rules are as timely and important today as five centuries ago. New York: Truman Talley Books.
  3. Machiavelli, N. (1979). The portable Machiavelli (P. Bondanella & M. Musa, Trans. & Eds.). New York: Viking Penguin.
  4. Mansfield, H. C. (1998). Machiavelli’s virtue. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  5. Pitkin, H. F. (1984). Fortune is a woman: Gender and politics in the thought of Machiavelli. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  6. Ridolfi, R. (1965). The life of Niccolo Machiavelli (C. Grayson, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  7. Viroli, M. (2000). Niccolo’s smile (A. Shugaar, Trans.). New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

See also:

Free research papers are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to order a custom research paper on political science and get your high quality paper at affordable price.


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality
Special offer! Get discount 10% for the first order. Promo code: cd1a428655