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3 - Machiavelli, Piero Soderini, and the republic of 1494-1512

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2010

John M. Najemy
Affiliation:
Cornell University, New York
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Summary

In the dedications to both The Prince and the Discourses, Machiavelli asserted that he had acquired his understanding of politics through lengthy experience of the contemporary world and continual reading of ancient texts. His fourteen-year career in the Florentine chancery placed him at the hub of government and politics and afforded him manifold opportunities, whether at his desk in Florence or as an emissary abroad, to observe and experience at close hand the problems of Florentine politics and territorial administration and European diplomacy and statecraft, problems on which he meditated and began to write during his career in government. Machiavelli's participation in the political world came to an abrupt end in 1512, when a successful coup against Piero Soderini, the elected permanent head of Florentine government, caused the collapse of the republic, the restoration of a generally unpopular Medici regime, and Machiavelli's dismissal from his posts and banishment from political action. The coup and his fate gave Machiavelli the time to write more discursively about his understanding of political affairs from a perspective sharpened by the failure of the regime and personal loss. Among the issues that preoccupied Machiavelli in the major works of his enforced retirement were military strength and force, political stability, and leadership, or rather their reverse: the military weakness, instability, inadequate justice, factionalism, and absence of leadership that dogged the Florentine Republic for much of his time in the chancery.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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