Machiavelli in Context

Course No. 4311
Professor William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
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Course No. 4311
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Course Overview

Mentioning the name Niccolò Machiavelli can unleash a powerful response, even among people who have never read a word of his writings. Our language even has a word—Machiavellian—that encapsulates the images those responses conjure up:

  • An indistinct figure quietly making his way through the darkest corridors of power, hatching plots to play one rival against another
  • A cold-blooded political liar, ready to justify any duplicity undertaken in the name of a noble end that will ultimately justify the most malignant means
  • A coolly practical leader—amoral at best—willing to do whatever is necessary in a world governed not by ideas of right or wrong, but by solutions dictated by realpolitik.

But does the Machiavelli most of us think we know bear any resemblance to the Machiavelli who lived, pondered, and wrote?

According to Professor William R. Cook, a reading of Machiavelli that considers only those qualities that we today call "Machiavellian" is incomplete, and Machiavelli himself "certainly would not recognize" such sinister interpretations or caricatures of his writings and beliefs. Indeed, The Prince—on the pages of which so much of this image was built—was not even published in his lifetime.

Meet an Extraordinary Student of History

In the 24 lectures that make up Machiavelli in Context, Professor Cook offers the opportunity to meet an extraordinarily thoughtful and sincere student of history and its lessons, and to learn that there is far more to him than can be gleaned from any reading of The Prince, no matter how thorough.

Although The Prince is the work by which most of us think we know Machiavelli, and although some have indeed called it the first and most important book of political science ever written, it was not, according to Professor Cook, either Machiavelli's most important work or the one most representative of his beliefs. Those distinctions belong, instead, to his Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy, a longer work started at about the same time and which would, like The Prince, not be published until well after his death.

"Everyone who has seriously studied the works of Machiavelli agrees that he ... believed in the superiority of a republican form of government, defined as a mixed constitution with elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.

"Once we recover the context of the writing of The Prince, and analyze it along with the Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy, it will be clear how The Prince can be read as a book designed to guide leaders in the creation—for Machiavelli, restoration—of republican government in Italy.

"Ultimately, Machiavelli's goal wasn't much different from ours. It was to live in a free and equal participatory society, because he believed that was the greatest way in which human beings could live and flourish."

In fact, says Professor Cook, "Machiavelli's republican thought influenced the development of institutions and values both in Europe and in America."

Learn Machiavelli's Most Important Ideas

To present a complete and well-rounded picture of Machiavelli's ideas on how human societies should be organized and governed, Professor Cook sets aside much of Machiavelli's written output—which included the political work The Art of War, a biography, many letters, and even some plays—to focus on The Prince, the Discourses, and, more briefly, his Florentine Histories.

In doing so, Professor Cook draws on the same qualities so evident in his previous courses for The Teaching Company: Tocqueville and the American Experience, Dante's Divine Comedy, Francis of Assisi, and St. Augustine's Confessions.

Teaching in the relaxed and informal style of those courses, Professor Cook moves easily among the different disciplines so pertinent to an understanding of Machiavelli's ideas, including history, philosophy, government, and the elements of leadership. He is unfailingly clear, always provides any definitions needed to understand the material at hand, and is always ready with a touch of wit whenever that is appropriate.

Because so much of our contemporary misunderstanding of Machiavelli's ideas comes from a lack of context, Professor Cook carefully sets the stage for a complete perspective of Machiavelli's world.

Long before he turns to the works themselves, you'll have learned about Florence and its political history, both before and during Machiavelli's lifetime; the developing Renaissance culture of Machiavelli's time, especially as it bears on the use of ancient political thought by writers and political leaders; and Machiavelli's own life story, including his education, service to the Florentine Republic, years spent in exile south of Florence, and the ways each period of his life affected his writings.

A Stunning and Original Thinker

The result is a thorough grounding in the information one needs to understand and appreciate this stunningly original thinker.

You'll learn, for example, what Machiavelli means when he discusses the important ideas of virtù and Fortuna.

Though these are today invariably translated as virtue and fortune, Machiavelli's meanings can involve much more. Though he sometimes uses virtù in the sense we would understand today, he often uses the word—which comes from the classical Latin word for Man—as a means of describing the way one practices successful statecraft: aggressively, with no reluctance to use lies, deceit, and cruelty that may be required to maintain power, and hence the stability the people deserve.

In a similar way Machiavelli uses Fortuna in a different sense than might have been used by, say, Dante when he describes the vagaries of fate over which we have no control.

Instead, Machiavelli uses the adage, "Fortune is like a river." Though we cannot control fortune, which may well choose to make the river flood, a good ruler, practicing virtù, can indeed prepare for it, and thus modify its effects.

You'll see how Machiavelli first became exposed to history and one of its earliest great practitioners—the Roman historian, Livy—through his own experience of Fortuna.

Though printed books such as Livy's Early History of Rome were too expensive for a family like the young Machiavelli's in the 15th century, his father did own a copy. He had written the index, and a copy of the book had been part of his payment. Thus Machiavelli grew up with the volumes about which he would one day write his own most important work, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy.

You'll be introduced to Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI and the man regarded as Machiavelli's model for The Prince, especially in the way his actions embodied the virtù so important to Machiavelli.

Hear a Shocking but Illustrative Story

Professor Cook brings this out in a shocking story of Borgia's use of a tough and merciless Spaniard—Ramiro d'Orco—to impose order and stability on the area of north central Italy known as the Romagna that had come under Borgia's rule and was beset by crime and violence.

D'Orco's brutal methods had the desired effect. And when the job was completed, the local people emerged from their homes one morning to find the two halves of Ramiro d'Orco's body on opposite sides of the town square of Cesana, because d'Orco had been too tough, and Cesare Borgia needed a way to advertise further his concern for the people whose loyalty he wanted.

The story also embodies, for Machiavelli, the idea that cruelty can be "well-used," just as being merciful—withholding such cruelty when a leader deems it needed—may be less than merciful in its long-term impact.

Finally, you will get to see, throughout these lectures, the development of Machiavelli's reliance on history for its lessons, his role as a Renaissance Humanist thinker, and the emergence of his republican views, which still have tremendous influence today as we ask how republics start, grow, succeed, or fail.

As Professor Cook notes, we are not going to agree with all of Machiavelli's answers. But his commitment to asking the right questions—to thinking, reflecting, and learning everything history has to teach us about the best ways to govern and safeguard the future—was total.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Who Is Machiavelli? Why Does He Matter?
    The course opens by placing Machiavelli in the context of the history of Western political thought, addressing the debate over the "real" Machiavelli and examining his role as perhaps the first "modern" thinker. x
  • 2
    Machiavelli’s Florence
    What sort of place was Florence in the period we call the Renaissance? The lecture introduces us to an independent entity constantly working to gain advantage over its Italian neighbors as well as deal with the great European monarchies. x
  • 3
    Classical Thought in Renaissance Florence
    The Renaissance can best be understood as an educational movement that approached and found value in the classics in new ways. This lecture introduces the principal tenets of Renaissance Humanist thought and practice. x
  • 4
    The Life of Niccolò Machiavelli
    In the republican interlude (1494–1512) that interrupts the Medici domination, Machiavelli leads an active life as a part of Florence's government, although his most important writings are produced in the years after the Medici family re-established its rulership. x
  • 5
    Why Did Machiavelli Write The Prince?
    In studying Machiavelli's letters and The Prince itself, we learn the circumstances in which he produced his most famous work, as well as the degree to which his ideas, though owing much to classical thought, are quite original. x
  • 6
    The Prince, 1–5—Republics Old and New
    The lecture begins the in-depth exploration of The Prince, including both the view that it was an attempt to win the favor of the Medici and Machiavelli's first extended use of an example from classical antiquity to illuminate his discussion. x
  • 7
    The Prince, 6–7—Virtù and Fortuna
    We look at two terms Machiavelli uses often and what he intends them to mean before moving into the heart of one of the book's most famous chapters, in which Machiavelli introduces Cesare Borgia, often referred to as his role model for a modern prince. x
  • 8
    The Prince, 8–12—The Prince and Power
    Machiavelli examines civil principalities, leading to a discussion of the prince's relationship with the citizens he governs, including his claim that it is more important for a prince to have the support of the people rather than the nobility. x
  • 9
    The Prince, 13–16—The Art of Being a Prince
    Machiavelli denounces the common practice of his day for Italian city-states to rely on auxiliary soldiers, and lays out part of what is new in his political thought, pointing out that human weakness lessens the value of those in the past who have written of ideal, imaginary republics. x
  • 10
    The Prince, 17–21—The Lion and the Fox
    Should a prince be loved or feared, if he cannot be both? Traditional thinkers would have chosen the former, while Machiavelli argues for the latter. Similarly, Machiavelli asks if it is necessary or wise for a prince always to keep his word. x
  • 11
    The Prince, 21–26—Fortune and Foreigners
    Machiavelli states that a prince must gain the esteem of his people and then addresses several important issues regarding a prince's court—including advisors and how to use them and the problem of flattery—before focusing once again on contemporary Italy and its problems. x
  • 12
    Livy, the Roman Republic, and Machiavelli
    We turn to Machiavelli's most carefully thought out and longest book on political thought, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy, beginning with a description of the Roman Republic and a broad view of how Livy understood Rome's republican past. x
  • 13
    Discourses—Why Machiavelli Is a Republican
    Machiavelli argues that it was conflict between patricians and plebians that led to the full development of Rome's republican constitution. Hence, conflict can be either destructive or positive in a nation. While it was good for Rome, it was bad for Florence. x
  • 14
    Discourses—The Workings of a Good Republic
    Machiavelli holds that a Republic requires a strong man who is unafraid to act boldly—citing Numa's establishment of a moral structure for citizens—and looks forward, as well, asking what happens if the citizenry becomes corrupted. x
  • 15
    Discourses—Lessons from Rome
    Machiavelli examines several questions relating to the governance and reform of a republic—including the roles played by merit, tradition, initiative, and punishment—before making a case for the freedom that comes with knowledge of the past. x
  • 16
    Discourses—A Principality or a Republic?
    After contrasting a virtuous republic with a city without virtue, Machiavelli writes about his beliefs in signs and prophecies, a reminder to us that Machiavelli is both a man of his time and a modern man. x
  • 17
    Discourses—The Qualities of a Good Republic
    Although Machiavelli dealt with the role of fortune in The Prince, he takes up the issue again at the beginning of his second discourse, considering claims that Rome was more lucky than skilled or virtuous in its stability and growth during several republican centuries. x
  • 18
    Discourses—A Republic at War
    Machiavelli discusses the organization and practice of warfare in ancient Rome, offering us the opportunity to draw lessons that override the details of the kind of warfare no longer waged in our time. x
  • 19
    Discourses—Can Republics Last?
    Concerned for war-torn Italy, Machiavelli takes up several issues that Livy dealt with in his History of Rome, ultimately worrying about how nations, and especially republics, can survive in a dangerous and unpredictable world. x
  • 20
    Discourses—Conspiracies and Other Dangers
    With famous historical examples to emphasize the importance of taking action against opposition when a change of government occurs, Machiavelli writes about the nature of conspiracies and the qualities different historical circumstances demand of a leader, then reiterates several of his major themes. x
  • 21
    Florentine Histories—The Growth of Florence
    Writing his most important work of history—Florentine Histories—as a commission from the Medici, Machiavelli applies many of the ideas set forth in The Prince and Discourses. x
  • 22
    Florentine Histories—The Age of the Medici
    The Pazzi conspiracy of 1478 is an attempt to overthrow Medici rule by assassinating Lorenzo de Medici and his brother Giuliano. It becomes for Machiavelli a case study that illuminates the particular issue of conspiracies and how we learn from history. x
  • 23
    The Fate of Machiavelli’s Works
    Machiavelli's major works fail to find publication in his lifetime, but his republican thought, at least indirectly, contributes to the development of an American republican tradition. x
  • 24
    Was Machiavelli a Machiavellian?
    The final lecture addresses the most important questions we need to ask about Machiavelli, including the fairness of the judgment brought on him by history, and why he remains such a vital model, even after five centuries. x

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Your professor

William R. Cook

About Your Professor

William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
Dr. William R. Cook is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude from Wabash College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa there. He was then awarded Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Lehman fellowships to study medieval history at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. Professor Cook teaches courses...
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Reviews

Machiavelli in Context is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 79.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best I have listened to. I have listened to or watched almost 100 courses, and this one is easily in the top ten. In spite of a a fairly broad background in History, I had completely misunderstood Machiavelli. While there is an excellent coverage of The Prince, which I have bought and am now reading, The information on Machiavelli ‘s discourses on Livy were wonderful. Far from ancient history, much of what Machiavelli said about a Republic is directly applicable to our country today. I absolutely loved this course, and you will, too.
Date published: 2017-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I appreciated this course as it applied to my understanding of events in history. i.e. The Borgias; the role of Mussolini;
Date published: 2017-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Presentation about a great man. I bought this CD about a month ago. The presentation is outstanding. It is easy to see why Machiavelli still influences our world.
Date published: 2017-09-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Machiavelli in Context Excellent review of Machiavelli's Prince and his discourses on Livi. These works were explained considering the events of the period in which they were written. A fresh opinion of Machiavelli's thoughts. The Prince is usually believed to be a treatise on the end justifies the means. But set in the historical context of his day it more fully provides a discourse comparing government structures. The course was presented with a great zeal by a very learned historian.
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rave review for Professor Cook After reading "The Prince" and a few books on Machiavelli, I was curious about Professor Cook's course. I thought he gave the most balanced interpretation of Machiavelli's views and intentions out of all the work I have read. This is not my first course by Prof. Cook. The Cathedral and Dante are also excellent. His enthusiasm for his subjects is contagious and presents the material very clearly.
Date published: 2017-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Machiavelli in context One of the best courses I have listen to. Has an extensive perspective of the history of Italy during Machiavelli' day.
Date published: 2017-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Machiavelli Misunderstood Dr. Cook is a treasure and very clearly loves his material and needs to tell you about it. And, Machiavelli is worth knowing about. In the controversy regarding monarchy vs. democracy, Machiavelli adds oligarchy as a mid-point and states a well run republic has all three. A leader to take command when needed, an oligarchy to advise and a democracy to keep everything on the rails. For example, When Patrick Henry first read a draft of the Constitution, he exclaimed: "We the People???" What happened to the states? They were conveniently left out to leave the people defenseless against a tyrannical government. The Founding Fathers should have read Machiavelli.
Date published: 2017-04-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Difficult but worth your time Machiavelli is one of the most profound thinkers who still impacts up today. This course focuses on his work and that makes it a graduate level work. If you are looking for a more basic study I suggest starting with the Prince. Without an underlying understanding of Classical writing, this can be overwhelming as the lectures go from Antiquity to the Renaissance to more modern examples quickly. I previously took Professor Cook's course of Tocqueville and found many of the same traights. First, he really knows his stuff. At first he's a little hard to understand as he has a bit of a speech impediment. His boundless enthusiasm for the subject matter gets you over that quickly however. It's a pet peeve of mine that he frequently ends a thought with "and whatever..." But clearly he has an understanding of the topic material that few others can offer and he holds your interest.
Date published: 2017-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course gave me new appreciation for the Republic as an well designed political system that provides checks and balances to the occasional corruption of particular constituencies within a nation's citizenry.
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Machiavelii in Context The cousre was very informative. Here is revealed the underlying structure within Machiavelli's work. New understanding of Machiavelli's cmplex masterpiece.
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I enjoyed this course! I actually ordered this for the topic and the instructor. I have enjoyed all three of the courses I have that were given by Professor Cook. I have listened to this several times and each time I seem to pick up something new - or more specifically, new thought provoking concepts to consider....about government and society in general. I even like how he handles using the wrong name - he corrects himself and acknowledges the error. It makes it seem more real than just reading from a script...even though it is a video.
Date published: 2016-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Machi I took a chance on this title and am glad I did. I learned lots and I'd say much of what was stated could be used by us not just political science devotes. I would be interested in other lectures by the presenter. Can't wait for my ride home to listen to the final lecture. "Is Macheaveli Machevellian? Awesome class!
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Palpable Enthusiam and Bountiful Content Indeed Dr. Cook puts Machiavelli in rich context! He emphasizes the Discourses and Histories of Florence without giving the Prince short shrift, Dr. Cook's enthusiasm for Machiavelli, the Renaissance generally, and history is palpable and infectious. In part he uses the course to illustrate approaches to history and what history has to offer us. This was among the best, if not the best, of the 20 or so Great Courses I have completed to date.
Date published: 2016-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and highly illuminating I bought this course by Prof. Cook because I was delighted with his course on De Tocqueville's Democracy in America. This course on Machiavelli is excellent. Starting with a high-level summary of the history of Florence to put Machiavelli's life and work into context, Prof. Cook provides very thoughtful and insightful discussions about The Prince, Discourses on Livy, and Florentine Histories. It's clear that to really understand Machiavelli you need to dive into all three of his works, not just The Prince. Prof. Cook in a terrific and enthusiastic guide to all of this material, the influence of Machiavelli's work on later thinking about republics, and his ongoing impact in the world today. I highly recommend this, and hope for more TC courses by Prof. Cook.
Date published: 2016-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant Prior to hearing this course, I heard three courses given by Professor Bartlett on Italy around the era of the Renaissance: “Italians before Italy…”, “Italian Renaissance”, “and “The Smithsonian Guide to Essential Italy”. These were invaluable for providing the historical context for understanding Machiavelli, and I believe that if I only had to rely on the rather brief historical context given in the current course I would have had a hard time understanding much of what was taught. The course was wonderful! Professor Cook was absolutely masterful at exposing all of the different dimensions of Machiavelli’s teachings. Obviously – for most people Machiavelli goes together with Machiavellian: the aims justify the means… Professor Cook shows how much more there is to Machiavelli and how, in some ways, this is exactly the opposite from what Machiavelli actually thought while in others it isn’t. A complicated and sophisticated thinker indeed, especially considering that he was writing in the 16th century! This is the second course I have taken given by Professor Cook, the first being “Saint Francis of Assisi” which he taught with Professor Herzman. I did not particularly enjoy that course nor Professor Cook as the lecturer. I simply did not feel it rose to any great heights. This course is a totally different story: Professor Cook is sharp, provocative, ironic and very entertaining. He does a brilliant job in showing how multi-facetted Machiavelli is and how much thought has to be invested when reading his teachings in order to understand all of the subtleties. He explains why Machiavelli is called so many times “the first modern man”, while at the same time shows us that though one can imagine sitting down with Machiavelli at a pub and arguing politics, he is STILL a sixteenth century man with the appropriate prejudices and superstitions. A brilliant course and highly recommended!
Date published: 2015-10-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good Content-Poor Delivery I feel guilty because the content was good. However, his speech impediment was extremely distracting. The video may have been better, but the audio was tough.
Date published: 2015-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Machiavelli yes, Machiavellian Not so Much My introduction to Machiavelli, like most students, was of short snippets of Machiavelli's "The Prince," with little or no narrative to explain or support the statements. Any picture of Niccolo Machiavelli was of a conniving, self-serving politician with no respect for the institutions supporting the government he served. The description of an individual, usually a politician, as Machiavellian, is an invitation to disrespect his motives, his methods, and his oratories. Professor Cook demonstrates that Machiavelli was not a conniving politician, but a true student of history, applying a careful analysis to the sources he had at his disposal. Professor Cook's lectures reveal his deep intimacies with the intricacies of Machiavelli's personal history, corpus of work, and historical knowledge. This makes this series of lectures a joy. His lectures cover not only his best known work, "The Prince," but his more important works, His "Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius," and his "Histories of Florence." The narrative history is fascinating, which you'd expect of someone with decades of close association with the leaders of Florence. Professor Cook's exposition on the works themselves enables the students to compare today's political scene with not only that of sixteenth century Florence, but that of Athens and Rome. There is always some bit of the course that, for me, embodies the most valuable part of that course. In the case of this series, his lectures on the structure, history, and functioning of the republic are golden. Like most students of history, I thought I had a solid basis for my knowledge of the republcan form of government. I know a lot more now. This course, like many others, has added to my reading list. For this course, it is an added piece of luck that Machiavelli's work is available on the net from repositories that serve the public without violating anyone's copyright. In Professor Cooks own words, "If you haven't given Machiavelli a try, give him a try." This course is an excellent way of doing just that.
Date published: 2015-03-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Machiavelli in Context Review I was very surprised to read some of the negative reviews about the lecturers style. I thought he was great. A lot of fun to listen to, energetic, and very interesting. I suppose it is just a matter of opinion but I would not hesitate to listen to another course by him. The content was a very nice overview of the key aspects of Machiavelli's philosophy in context with the times and setting he lived in. I suppose if you already knew a bunch about Machiavelli this course might not be as in-depth as you'd like. For me, knowing really nothing about him, this course was a perfect introduction. After listening to the course I bought The Prince and plan on reading the Discourses on Livy as well for a more in-depth study. I highly recommend this course for anyone wanting a very accessible overview of Machiavelli's philosophy by a lecturer who really knows his stuff and seems to be passionate about the topic.
Date published: 2014-11-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I will never buy anythhing from cook again I came to this course from Bartlett's Italian Renaissance course, hoping to learn much more about this critical period. While Cook has a solid bibliography, he dumbs down all the important concepts and ideas. I kept trying to continue and tried to ignore his "cutesy" references to Machiavelli's "dad" and his feeble attempts to make it seem that we would all like to go out and have a beer with Machiavelli but finally had to quit. This is among the absolute worst Teaching Company courses I have taken. Unintellectual, irritating simplistic presentation and a total waste of time. Please spend your money on Bartletts course which is erudite and uplifting.
Date published: 2014-05-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from rather simplistic presentation Prof. Cook does a quite complete presentation of the general themes on Machiavelli, and rightfully highlights his republicanism, but his style of presentation is a bit simplistic/unsophisticated in analysis, the tone of voice is unfortunately quite put-offish (a bit shrill a times, very crude in vocabulary). Wish I had kept my receipt and returned this ite,
Date published: 2014-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favorite Course from the Teaching Company This is the course that got me hooked on The Teaching Company. Entertaining, informative, and most importantly enlightening. 50+ courses later it is still my favorite. Prof. Cook is fantastic. I cannot recommend it higher.
Date published: 2014-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SO good! Wide ranging lectures cover background, writings, biography. All given with enthusiasm and dynamism and clearly a huge knowledge base.. Do not miss this course. One of the TeachCo's best. From this I ordered another of this professor's courses, Dante"s Inferno, also excellent. Kudos.
Date published: 2013-12-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Presentation I could not get past the first CD due to his presentation style, which feels like he is yelling at you. I am sure the content was fine, and it is just unfortunate that I could not bear to listen to this.
Date published: 2013-08-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Shorter could be better The material, with side comments and repetition aside, would have worked better in six CDs rather than 12. Cook fleshes out his presentation with personal anecdotes, explains why one should study Machiavelli, and lists his influence. Instead, distill the presentation down to what Machiavelli wrote and put it in context.
Date published: 2013-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A familiar name brought to life The first TGC course I ever took ("The Cathedral") featured Prof. Cook and he has been a favorite of mine ever since. Like his course on de Tocqueville, this Machiavelli series focuses on an author who is widely quoted but seldom studied in depth. I took the audio version of the course, which seemed perfectly suitable for the subject matter. Prof. Cook begins with several preliminary lectures to introduce Machiavelli and his surroundings, then launches in to studies of his main works. The prof's talks on "The Prince" led me to pull out an old (unread) copy and follow along with a highlighter! But the "Discourses on Livy" (a book I had never heard of) were also fascinating as analyzed by Cook. As always, Prof. Cook is loaded with energy and seems to truly love his topic. I had recently watched the dubious cable epic "The Borgias," so it was good to get an in-depth look at the ACTUAL history of the period from someone who knows it well. And I've found some great Machiavelli quotes to confound my friends on Facebook.
Date published: 2013-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great professor I didn't think I would like this...WRONG! The professor was very entertaining and the subject matter was much more interesting than I anticipated. Great course! (no pun intented)
Date published: 2013-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Machiavelli was not so Machiavellian Prior to taking this course, the only thing I knew about Machiavelli, like many other people, was "The Prince." But after this course I found out so much more about him. I found out, that at heart, Machiavelli was really a republican. And Professor Cook does a good job of describing what republicanism really is (along with discussing monarchy, aristocracy and democracy). In fact, anyone interested in political science, will gain much from this course, aside from the fact that it is about Machiavelli. Professor Cook also give us a clear understanding of the time and place that Machiavelli comes from, so people interested in the history of Florence will get much out of this course also. This was a very well rounded course that I have already referred other people to.
Date published: 2013-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Machiavelli in Context Machiavelli one of my favorite historical characters. I really enjoyed the lectures. I learnt new things about Niccolo. Two thumbs up!
Date published: 2013-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview Cook covers not only Machiavelli's works, but also the historical context of the Italian Renaissance. Very well done, and an excellent insight into both the man and his times. Nicely balances the popular impression of Machiavelli as a political schemer of The Prince with the passionate republican revealed through The Discourses and other writing.
Date published: 2013-02-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quite impressive (frenetic professor) DVD REVIEW: Dr Cook is an overly enthusiastic lecturer, continually waving his arms and raising his voice rather too much. In his talks on Machiavelli, his style is not quite so extreme as in other of his courses I've reviewed. Sometimes the loudness of his neckties competes with the strident, shrill volume of his voice! Overall, the lecture series is impressive, interesting and revealing, logically organised. The strong background material presented helped substantially in understanding and appreciating Machiavelli & his times. The bulk of the course concentrates on a consideration of three of Machiavelli's books, with possibly too much time spent on his discourses on Livy, at the expense of The Art of War and Machiavelli's plays & letters. The course is a definite revelation, for in fact Machiavelli "the first modern man" was not the nasty, evil, scheming, hated, malignant type that most people traditionally believe. Dr Cook presents the character of Machiavelli clearly, drawing on the classical influences that played parts in shaping him. There's a lot to absorb; I think a second playing will be in order. At this point, my estimation of Machiavelli is that he was not an especially important person and did not really have anything truly new to say that we can benefit from ~~ sorry about that! Professor Cook is a dedicated Republican(ist), but this should not colour his lectures as in fact it does. I can recommend this course but I wish Dr Cook would lose his highly frenetic manner.
Date published: 2013-01-17
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