Sometime in 2016, the idea of a seminar on Niccolò Machiavelli, at once contextualizing his writings and studying their impact on our own times, took root in Prasanta Chakravarty's mind. It was a diffident intuition. Was the thought historically too adventurous? Was it tenable to universalize Machiavelli and read him from an Indian location after so many centuries? On what grounds could one advance such a politically charged proposal to a literature department? His nebulous thoughts began to take shape when Christel Devadawson, then Head of the Department of English, University of Delhi, said she would back the idea. By the latter half of 2017, Prasanta was mailing a host of Machiavelli scholars across the world, asking whether they would be willing to travel to New Delhi in October 2018 for a conference on Machiavelli and his ideas. The Department could offer hospitality and three days of strenuous jousting with the man. A number of scholars immediately agreed. Those who could not, offered enormous support and goodwill. Thus, in the autumn of 2018, the Department came to host a conference entitled ‘Machiavelli in His Time, and Ours’. Most of the chapters in this book originated in that conference. The rest are by scholars who could not make it there but have been an integral part of the larger collective. Our thanks to all these distinguished contributors.
Rajeev Bhargava and Sukanta Chaudhuri were involved from the start as advisers to the project. Professor Bhargava has continued his exchanges with Prasanta on the political and philosophical ramifications of classical and Early Modern thought in our times. Sukanta Chaudhuri's association culminated in his co-editorship of this volume.
Sincere thanks are due to Rimli Bhattacharya, Rahul Govind, and Madhvi Zutshi, who participated untiringly, over a year and more, in academic and logistical planning of the conference. It would have been impossible to conceive the seminar and the book without their grace and guidance. Tanya Roy, Department of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Delhi, and her co-participants brought the comic power of Mandragola to life before the conference audience by their spirited play-reading.
The Ambasciata d’Italia, Nuova Delhi, generously supported the conference. Our gratitude to them.
Finally, we thank Qudsiya Ahmed, Anwesha Rana, Aniruddha De, and Purvi Gadia of the Cambridge University Press, New Delhi.