Books That Matter: The Prince

Course No. 4944
Professor William Landon, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
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Course No. 4944
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Examine how Livy's Histories and the radical preacher Savonarola influenced Machiavelli's political thought.
  • numbers Learn where The Prince fits in the tradition of princely advice books (or "mirrors").
  • numbers Using literary works like Brave New World, discover the novelty-and horror-of Machiavelli's break from the classical tradition.
  • numbers Learn how The Prince was received by Machiavelli's friends, as well the author's tensions with one man linked to the center of power.
  • numbers Survey the diversity of 20th-century responses to The Prince.

Course Overview

Do the ends justify the means? 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?

Written in the early 1500s at the height of the Florentine Renaissance, The Prince is well known to most of us as a manual for political corruption and a symbol of the underlying dark heart of politics. But to read Machiavelli’s slim volume only in this way is merely to scratch the surface of how groundbreaking a book it is; how it shattered the old classical approach to politics, replacing it with something grittier and, in some ways, better suited to the ruthlessness of the dawning modern age.

A compelling and multifaceted document, The Prince has gone on to shape subsequent centuries of Western civilization. Its controversial (and complex) views on power, leadership, ethics, and virtue are still with us. But The Prince is also a work filled with conflicting and tragic ironies, and it was written by a man who, throughout his own political career, failed to live up to the advice he put forth. Such complexities make it all the more important to have a complete understanding of what The Prince is really about, what it says (and doesn’t say) about political power, and why it ranks as a book that matters to all of us.

Delivered by renowned Machiavelli scholar William Landon, Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of History and Geography of Northern Kentucky University, the 24 lectures of Books That Matter: The Princeare 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 and Benito Mussolini. For those who’ve already read The Prince, prepare to engage with the text on a deeper level than ever before. And for those who’ve always wanted to read this important book, this is your introduction to one man’s revolutionary beliefs about achieving—and maintaining—power.

Plunge into Machiavelli’s Life and Times

The Prince was not written in a vacuum. Rather, it’s a fascinating piece of political writing that was clearly shaped and informed by the world in which it was produced. Going beyond the commonly held vision of Renaissance Italy as a place of creative genius and unparalleled beauty, Books That Matter: The Prince reveals the drama and terror of Machiavelli’s life and world.

  • Machiavelli and Florence: During Machiavelli’s time, Italy wasn’t a unified nation but instead a conglomeration of city-states, each with its own form of government, language, culture, and economy. So Machiavelli didn’t see himself as “Italian” but rather as “Florentine.” And his location in Florence put him at the birthplace of the Renaissance, surrounded by the re-emergent Greco-Roman ideas that he would later upend when writing The Prince.
  • Machiavelli and the Medici: In November 1512, after the powerful Medici family returned to reclaim their rule of Florence, Machiavelli was sent into exile. Yet the Medici would also be his main reason for penning The Prince. The entire work was written to advise the Medici masters (specifically the young Lorenzo de’ Medici) on how best to run their new government; in the process, Machiavelli hoped to gain reentry to the Florentine state and a position of influence.
  • Machiavelli and the Borgias: Machiavelli’s experiences in the court of the infamous Cesare Borgia from 1502 to 1503 were fundamental to some of the most controversial ideas in The Prince. According to Professor Landon, Machiavelli was mesmerized by Cesare Borgia’s ability to maintain a carefully constructed persona that hid his true character: that of “a murderous liar, a charismatic cheat, and a villainous fraud.” In short, he was Machiavelli’s ideal prince.

You’ll also learn about the inner workings of Florence’s patronage system, the relationship between the papacy and political power, Florence’s international conflicts, and the creation of citizen militias—one of Machiavelli’s most successful political achievements.

Discover New Ways to Read The Prince

Throughout Books That Matter: The Prince, you’ll dive deep 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 sometimes beautiful language and startling imagery.

  • Dedicatory letter: The Prince opens with a dedicatory letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici. In it, Machiavelli presents himself to the young prince as a tutor in the affairs of the Florentine state. As you’ll learn, it’s an audacious and awe-inspiring dedication that also places The Prince in the long-tradition of “mirrors for princes,” or advice books aimed at educating young rulers.
  • Chapter Seven: Titled “Of new princedoms acquired by Fortune and the aid of others,” this chapter is one of the most infamous in the entire book. By focusing on the ruthless exploits of the Borgias (specifically Pope Alexander and Cesare Borgia), Machiavelli ended up solidifying the influential family’s infamy right down to the present day.
  • Chapter Fifteen: You’ll learn how to read this chapter, “Of the qualities in respect of which men, and most of all princes, are praised or blamed,” as a powerful rebuke against the political advice of Seneca. In effect, what Machiavelli does in this chapter is throw away the most widely accepted forms of pagan and Christian ethics, advising princes that they should forget about trying to change the world for the better.
  • Chapter Twenty-Six: The final chapter of The Prince, filled with sweeping emotion, hammers home how Machiavelli’s ideal prince can liberate Italy from any foreign (“barbarian”) influence. But the chapter’s unique style has also led to some controversy, with scholars debating when exactly the chapter was written and added to subsequent copies of the book.

As you read between the lines of these and other memorable portions of The Prince, you’ll also probe some intriguing questions about the book’s origins, ideas, contradictions, and legacies.

  • Was The Prince meant to be taken seriously, or is it just a cunning piece of satire?
  • Who was responsible for rescuing The Prince from the brink of obscurity?
  • How did Machiavelli redefine the meanings of “virtue” and “patriotism”?

Get Two Decades of Research in One Great Course

With these lectures, you’re in the hands of a master scholar who’s devoted twenty years of his career to examining Machiavelli’s masterwork. Professor Landon transforms this slim volume into a compendium of history, philosophy, and literature that will have you rethinking your preconceived ideas about what it means to be a leader in a complex world.

“The ideas Machiavelli put forth are as novel as they are appalling,” he says. “But I think in the contemporary age, the many truths he shared are worthy of remembering and, yes, even celebrating.”

Bringing together two decades of tireless research into Machiavelli’s infamous “little book,” Books That Matter: The Prince is your guide to a powerful piece of writing that throws more than 2,000 years of political, religious, and ethical thought straight out the window.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 27 minutes each
  • 1
    Who Was Niccolò Machiavelli?
    To truly understand The Prince, you have to understand the man who wrote it. After providing an overview of Machiavelli's early life, Professor Landon introduces you to Machiavelli's Italy, including its conflicts with the French and Spanish, its network of city-states, and its role as the seat of humanist thought. x
  • 2
    Machiavelli's Renaissance: Rise and Rebirth
    Go back in time to Renaissance Florence: the city that shaped Machiavelli's formative years. You'll examine how Livy's Histories and the radical preacher Savonarola influenced Machiavelli's political thought, and you'll discover what Machiavelli learned about leadership from his experiences in the court of the fearsome Cesare Borgia. x
  • 3
    Machiavelli's Fall from Grace
    Machiavelli reached the heights of success in 1509 with his Florentine militia. A few years later, he'd be exiled from his beloved Florence. Get the full story on these tumultuous years, which include military victories (and defeats), political machinations, the return of the Medici, and the end of the Republic. x
  • 4
    Machiavelli's Patronage Problem
    To return from exile, Machiavelli needed a patron. What were the unwritten rules of the patron-client relationship in Renaissance Florence? How could Machiavelli gain entry to Lorenzo de' Medici's patronage network? See what a close reading of The Prince's dedicatory letter reveals about the irony of the author's predicament. x
  • 5
    How to Conquer a Renaissance City-State
    Turn now to Machiavelli's masterwork itself. First, learn where The Prince fits in the tradition of princely advice books (or mirrors"). Then, dive into the first six chapters, which discuss the two prominent forms of government, the wisdom of Alexander the Great, and the "destruction" of enemy states. " x
  • 6
    Cesare Borgia: Machiavelli's Perfect Prince
    Chapter Seven of The Prince, one of its most infamous chapters, uses the terrifying Borgia family as an example of the acquisition of power and political unification. In examining this section, you'll encounter one of the many troubling problems with Machiavellian thought: the use of amoral means to attain moral ends. x
  • 7
    Machiavelli's Criminal Princes
    What were Machiavelli's views on achieving power through criminal means? If Cesare Borgia wasn't a criminal prince, then who was? Read between the lines of Chapter Eight of The Prince, which discusses the merits of cruel leaders by comparing Cesare Borgia with the careers of two other dastardly princes. x
  • 8
    Church versus State in Machiavelli's Italy
    Continue to Chapter Nine, Of the Civil Princedom," in which Machiavelli lays out the strategies Lorenzo needs to employ if he wishes to remain successful. Then, look at Chapter Eleven, "Of Ecclesiastical Principalities," which advises Lorenzo to work with Pope Leo X to remove the Spanish and French from Italy." x
  • 9
    Senecan Mirrors and Machiavellian Masks
    One inspiration for The Prince was Seneca's De Clementia (On Clemency"), one of the most influential advice books of Machiavelli's time. After a brief look at this illustrious work, examine how Chapter Fifteen of The Prince completely undermines Seneca's advice-and all widely accepted forms of ethics and respect." x
  • 10
    Fear Is Love: Machiavellian Authority
    Is it better for a leader to be feared or loved? The Prince answers this question in Chapter Seventeen, which advocates for the use of terror to control one's subjects. Using literary works like Brave New World, open your eyes to the novelty-and horror-of Machiavelli's break from the classical tradition. x
  • 11
    Machiavelli Reinvents Virtue
    Focus on how The Prince subverted, in shocking and ironic ways, the vocabulary of classical political thought-specifically three Florentine words for Roman values: virtu (virtue"), stato ("the state") and patria ("patriotism"). Through these linguistic manipulations, Machiavelli revealed how blind people were to the harsh realities of Italian politics." x
  • 12
    Verita Effettuale: Machiavellian Realism
    Chapter Eighteen of The Prince demolished the advice of Cicero and challenged the worldview of St. Paul. As you break down this chapter, you'll encounter one of the book's most famous passages, and you'll learn why Machiavelli envisioned a great prince as someone who was part fox and part lion. x
  • 13
    Achieving Fame and Glory Machiavelli's Way
    Professor Landon guides you through Chapter Twenty-One of The Prince. Here, Machiavelli explains how a prince should make himself great through religion, and how he should conduct foreign wars to distract citizens from his consolidation of power at home. The best historical example of this prince: Ferdinand of Aragon. x
  • 14
    The Irony of Machiavelli as Adviser
    How should a great prince select a personal adviser and avoid flatterers? To answer this question, you'll jump into the poisonous pit of the Florentine court and learn how The Prince was received by Machiavelli's friends, as well the author's tensions with one man linked to the center of power. x
  • 15
    Machiavelli on Fighting Fortune
    One of the most hotly debated chapters in The Prince is Chapter Twenty-Five, which declares Fortune to be the guide of human actions and suggests that great men must always live in a state of preparedness. How does Machiavelli come to grips with free will? What did Fortune mean to Florentines? x
  • 16
    Machiavelli Calls for a United Italy
    Filled with emotion, the final chapter of The Prince offers Lorenzo de' Medici pointed advice on how to liberate Italy from barbarians." Probe the scholarly debate over when this chapter was added to the text. Also, learn how The Prince compares with Machiavelli's other famous book on Republican idealism." x
  • 17
    Machiavelli Reads Lucretius
    In the first of two lectures on the intellectual underpinnings of Machiavelli's political thought, Professor Landon explores how Epicurean materialism-as exemplified by Lucretius's famous poem De rerum natura (On the nature of things")-shaped the author's life while in exile, and also his writing of The Prince." x
  • 18
    Lucretian Ethics in The Prince
    Ponder the connection between the writing of The Prince with the metaphor of Sisyphus's punishment rolling a boulder up a hill. You'll learn how a famous letter offers insights into Machiavelli's political divorce from Florence, and you'll ponder connections between Machiavelli and the 20th-century philosopher Albert Camus. x
  • 19
    Was Machiavelli an Atheist?
    According to Professor Landon, Machiavelli was a materialist and possibly an atheist. How does this influence our reading of The Prince? What are some scholarly arguments that Machiavelli was a Christian? What does the author's private correspondence reveal? Consider the evidence and draw your own conclusions about Machiavelli's belief-or lack thereof. x
  • 20
    The Machiavellian Moment
    The year 1527 saw the expulsion of the Medici, the restoration of the Florentine Republic, and the death of Machiavelli. Experience what it was like to live during the growing wars of religion. Then, spend time with the famous author during his last days and learn the fate of his little book. x
  • 21
    Machiavelli in Hell: Banning The Prince
    Discover how The Prince was received by the generations who came after Machiavelli. You'll follow the book's journey from unpublished obscurity to its position on Pope Paul IV's Index of Banned Books to the preservation of its authentic, unedited text thanks to the help of Machiavelli's rebellious grandsons. x
  • 22
    Machiavelli at Work in the Wars of Religion
    The ideas contained in The Prince were blamed for a number of historical atrocities. Here, spend some time with critics of Machiavelli's book, including Cardinal Reginald Pole (who declared the book to be written by Satan's finger"), the Protestant critic Innocent Gentillet, and even great English playwrights like William Shakespeare." x
  • 23
    Machiavelli Redeemed: The Enlightenment
    What was the role of The Prince in a world that turned to the Enlightenment and a focus on human rights? Find out how great minds and leaders from this era in modern history-including Frederick the Great of Prussia, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Adams-responded to Machiavelli's political ideas. x
  • 24
    Machiavelli's Legacy
    Survey the diversity of 20th-century responses to The Prince, from Benito Mussolini, who used it to justify his fascist dictatorship, to contemporary Renaissance scholars, who see the work as a brilliant piece of satire. Centuries after it was first written down, Machiavelli's ideas continue to resonate with human civilization. x

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Your professor

William Landon

About Your Professor

William Landon, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
Dr. William Landon is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of History and Geography at Northern Kentucky University. He received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in History, with an emphasis on the life and works of Niccolò Machiavelli, from the University of Edinburgh. While in Edinburgh, he studied under noted historian of Renaissance Italy Richard Mackenney. Dr. Landon has published two books: Politics, Patriotism and...
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Books That Matter: The Prince is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 28.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Putting The Prince into context The professor does an excellent job of putting The Prince into its context of time and place. It is important to understand the history and politics of Italy, Florence, and the Papacy to understand this work.
Date published: 2018-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from More about Machiavelli than about The Prince I am torn regarding whether or not to recommend this course. In some respects, it is very well done and interesting but in other respects it misses the mark. The teacher is very knowledgeable and easy to follow. He is respectful to various perspectives and he is quite clear when he is stating his opinion where it might not be consensus. He provides deep insights both into the book and into the environment in which it was written. He addresses the deep issues of morality, immorality, and amorality without being judgmental. On the other hand, it doesn’t really fulfill its promise to focus on The Prince. It spends four lectures on background. Then it addresses the first six chapter in just one lecture. After devoting one lecture to each of the next three chapters, it skips Chapters 10-14 entirely. Overall, out of a book with 26 chapters, he skips 11 of them. He then devotes the final ten lectures to the impact The Prince has had throughout history. If one’s object is to learn how to read one of the Books that Matter, this course strays a lot from the mission. If a listener takes this course, I recommend that the listener also take Machiavelli in Context by William R. Cook. It is probably better to take the Cook course first. I used the audio download and I felt that I did not miss anything from the video version.
Date published: 2018-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Western Civilization Par excellence. Vety enlightening. Not enough words to describe it.
Date published: 2017-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from About 2/3rds through... Hadn’t been able to understand the Prince before this. I’ve been able to read through it once now and on my way back through. The professor is engaging, knowledgeable, and working through this small book with enough detail to bring it to light, but not bogging down on the minutia.
Date published: 2017-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Professor Landon did an excellent job in introducing not only Machiavelli but tying it all together in the world and politics of his time. I feel that if I were to bump into Machiavelli on the street (which would be a bit strange) I could have a conversation with him. And as luck would have it (or Fortuna) I now have a trip to Florence coming up! I can't wait to see the area myself and put myself in the moment. Great job, sir.
Date published: 2017-06-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too much history for ME I always wanted to know/ understand tTHE PRINCE I didn't sign up for a lengthily history course. I believe it was my naïveté, an interest in the history ( of which I have almost none) would have probably result in a different experience.
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from quite interesting excellent on whole opus of Machiavelli and detailed analysis of The Prince. Insightful on the Italian Renaissance Florence, the Borgias and Medici, and Popes.
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Insight! I purchased this for a class I was taking taught by Dr. Landon. It is a great course and gives really thought provoking information into how influential Machiavelli's The Prince was and is to the political sphere on an international scale.
Date published: 2017-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! This review is the CD version of the course. I had previously purchased and completed the entire CD course on Machiavelli by Prof. Cook - "Machiavelli in Context" - and that was a great learning experience and a great course. Some years later, Prof. Landon's course on Machiavelli was offered and I snapped it up. Like Cook's course, it is thoughtful, well-presented, and well-delivered, but is given in a different context and offers a somewhat different analysis. That is to be expected, as both professors are providing a 21st Century explanation and political-historical analysis to a small publication first authored in 1512-1513. To under Machiavelli, one must understand his times, and I must say that Prof. Landon does a truly excellent job in laying out the historical context and the events that led up to the writing of The Prince. Prof. Landon's depth of background on this subject area is deep, and although he does not try to dazzle the listener with his scholarly knowledge, it is apparent that Prof. Landon has acquired many years of reading and learning on the Florentine Republic and the events that led to the Medici restoration in Florence and Machiavelli's expulsion from public office and exile. It was during the winter of 1512-1513 that a brooding and contemplative Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a sort of extended resume in effort to re-gain his office in the foreign ministry of Florence (that never materialized). I really liked Prof. Landon's delivery and speaking style. He is a obviously an expert on this subject, but he is restrained enough to allow the non-academic listener to thoroughly enjoy the course. I would rate both Prof. Landon and Prof. Cook as five stars. Both courses are excellent, but delivered from different perspectives. I would recommend both courses as a worthwhile investment.
Date published: 2016-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Prince Prof. Landon does an excellent job of explaining The Prince. I wish he would offer a course on Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy.
Date published: 2016-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Course on "The Prince" This course is one of the best I have gotten from The Great Courses! The content is very detailed and the contextual analysis of Machiavelli's book is first rate. Dr. Landon is excellent! A must for people interested in "The Prince"
Date published: 2016-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course, Advanced Topics of The Prince This course delves into The Prince and its deep implications, both in history and principles and ideas that apply in modern times. I really enjoyed it. It is not a summary, nor a complete historical background though it does offer these two things at times. It invites the reader to think about questions that are timeless "Is it better to feared than loved?", "Do the ends justify the means?" but best of all, "Does it matter if a ruler puts on the appearance of virtue without actually being virtuous?" There are few answers of course, but the questions are profound and we get examples from the text and elsewhere to illustrate, including Ferdinand of Spain, Cesare Borgia and Francesco Borgia. Each lecture was a delight, and it didn't matter that the professor jumped around because the themes made sense to me on the whole. I would eagerly purchase more courses from this professor. [delivery] Four out of five stars: I really liked the professors use of inflection, volume and variation to keep the lectures moving smoothly. There was sometimes dry humor added. It wasn't stunning, but it got the job done, and it engaged me without being boring and monotonous. [content] Five out of five stars: As mentioned, the content was great. I really enjoyed the topics and the deep analysis of the text. This is what gives me pleasure from the Great Courses. [Overall] Five out of five stars: I walked away knowing more about the context, deep implications of and further connections to the text The Prince and I will listen to these lectures again. I recommend this course and hope to hear more like it. Recommended
Date published: 2016-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very clear picture of real world politics This course does an excellent job of putting this book in historical and geopolitical contex. It shows how politics worked then by expanding the breadth of the discussion to other writers and to the power struggles going on then and there It gives extensive insight into how politics works today
Date published: 2016-09-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Provocative but lacking organization Prof. Landon's lecture series on Machiavelli's The Prince is an oddity amongst the Great Courses. It appears to me that an attempt for comprehensiveness has resulted in a painful lack of organization. It is also possible this lecture series was rushed to completion, since there are a number of typographical errors, an absence of specific readings for each lecture and a bibliography that lacks annotation (a feature I have found extremely useful in other courses). The bibliography also mixes primary readings, secondary sources and a number of marginally relevant texts. It is clear Prof. Landon is extremely well acquainted with the scholarly literature concerning The Prince. Unfortunately, I don't feel this vast knowledge base always works to the benefit of his audience. Intricate speculations that might be riveting within academic circles, however plausible or implausible, too often come across in these lectures as bewildering or digressive. In his important essay from the early 1970s, "The Question of Machiavelli,” Isaiah Berlin referenced the proliferation of extremely variant readings of The Prince. In accounting for so many diverse reactions Berlin asserted that what makes The Prince truly revolutionary is not its division of politics from ethics, but Machiavelli's rejection of the belief that all genuine values are ultimately compatible and seamlessly interlocking. As a liberal pluralist himself, Berlin find finds Machiavelli especially fascinating and modern for denying (in principle, not just in historical reality) one of the core foundational principles of traditional Western philosophical thinking. I found this important line of thought under-explored in Prof. Landon's lectures in favor of rather peripheral arguments about Machiavelli's possible intentions. I also found his treatment of another important text, J G A Pocock's "The Machiavellian Moment," to be either too cursory or misguided. Prof. Landon's position seems to be that the Machiavellian "moment" occurs at a specific place and time in history and involves the separation of Church and State. I think Pocock's view was that the Machiavellian "moment" actually occurs perennially, whenever a government is faced with the threat of its forceful overthrow by hostile elements within (and sometimes outside) the state. At such times the state must decide to what extent "immoral" means should yet be taken to preserve its existence. With these caveats I could still recommend the course to others.
Date published: 2016-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Prince I found it engaging. It filled a lot of the void in my knowledge of Renaissance Italy and the nature of politics. Prof. Landon is easy to listen to making me to not want to stop listening. Joe Lupo
Date published: 2016-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Full of great details, entertaining, & historical I have just finished listening to the entirety of this course and found it to be as educational as it was entertaining – a great experience and a great buy. The historical background that Dr. Landon provided was essential to understanding the text of The Prince. And, Landon’s detailed analysis of Machiavelli’s “little book” was fascinating – and clearly the summary of a career’s worth of research dedicated to one of Florence’s most famous citizens. As an academic myself, I found Dr. Landon’s honesty, and willingness to let the listener know that he was sharing his personal scholarly conclusions (i.e. his opinion based upon decades of research) to be refreshing in that he made his point of view known, right at the start of the series, rather than hiding behind supposed “objectivity” as some scholars do; think of Kenneth Clark’s Civilization: A Personal View as you listen to Landon. The two scholars share in the same forms of scholarly integrity, good humor and intellectual depth. I am not an Italian Renaissance expert, but I do know that “Machiavelli Studies” is an incredibly divided field. Dr. Landon’s coverage of the debates that focus on the many interpretations of The Prince was excellent; and the ways that he illustrated how Machiavelli’s ideas were received (accepted and rejected) in the five centuries since his death were eye-opening for me. This course balanced history, biography, textual analysis, literary knowledge and interpretation wonderfully. For anyone interested in Machiavelli and his most famous book, I recommend this course wholeheartedly.
Date published: 2016-09-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from More of a compliment than a summary I purchased this course in the hopes that it would be a thorough summary of the famous work. I imagined the author would go, chapter by chapter, summarizing each and then discuss the implications. However, the course felt more like complimentary material to the work, a secondary lecture for those who want to understand it's author and setting in greater detail. A course you take after studying The Prince itself. Furthermore, I felt the author relied on first person pronouns more than any other Great Courses lecturer. For example many of his sentences are in the form of: "I think...", "In my opinion...", "most scholars believe...however, I feel...". This course felt more like Dr. Landon was presenting a dissertation than teaching a class; his personal opinions were far too prevalent. In the first lecture Dr. Landon asks his listeners to set aside their opinions when reading The Prince, but less than a minute later he states "I find the ideas set forth in The Prince (the majority of them at least) to be appalling". He doesnt even begin to cover the book until Lecture 5 (115 minutes into the course), but even then he takes a while to get to it. Below I will summarize that lecture to give you a feel for how they seem to go. That lecture starts with him saying "Friends, it is time to open The Prince properly now", I was so excited to finally hear those words...only for him to go on another tangent with more drivel. Five minutes in he tells the listener that he thinks the first 5 chapters are boring (not in grade school, college, or any online course I've taken has a lecturer stopped to mention how much he hates the subject he is teaching). He finally gets to it by the sixth minute, however, by minute 12 he once again digresses to share an anecdote about a taxi ride he once had through Florence. In all, my biggest complaint is that Dr. Landon approaches The Prince as a work of literature than a work of political science. He discusses it as a work written at a particular time for a particular person, which it certainly was, but Dr. Landon seemed to miss the fact that it continues to be an influential work today for people of no relation to its original intended recipient. The work continues to influence business and political leaders, who take from it not the suggestions for violence and murder, but the idea of strategic thinking and cunning that it takes to succeed. Dr. Landon appeared to only take the work at face value, an appalling discussion on cruel and totalitarian leadership. Perhaps he covers the work's practical applications at the end, but honestly I could not force myself to listen to all that drivel. I would title this course as "Historical Context For Machiavelli's The Prince".
Date published: 2016-09-04
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