History is the foundation of Machiavelli’s political thought. Dismissing the celebratory traditions of humanist historiography and never fully sharing humanism’s idealization of antiquity, Machiavelli sought in history the causes of political failure. He acknowledged the fragmentary and fleeting character of historical knowledge and exposed fashionable philosophies of history (cyclical recurrence, unchanging human passions, celestial influences, laws of nature, fortune) as seductive fictions purveying false consolations for history’s adversities and afflictions. Machiavelli proposed instead a critical history focused on how social conflicts shape power and its abuses. His analysis of ancient Roman and more recent Florentine conflicts turns on a crucial distinction between conflicts contained within institutional frameworks and public law and those fought with instruments of private power (political patronage, wealth, and factions) that undermine public authority. Useful history, Machiavelli insists, must show how the constant pursuit, particularly by elites, of privatized power caused both the collapse of the Roman Republic and the failures of modern Italy’s ruling classes.