Books that Matter: The Prince : The Great Courses: Intellectual History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor William Landon
  • Series: The Great Courses: Intellectual History
  • 11 hrs and 1 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

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?
These 24 lectures are 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.
Throughout the lectures, you'll dive deeply 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 startling imagery and sometimes beautiful language. Going beyond the commonly held vision of Renaissance Italy as a place of creative genius, Professor Landon reveals the drama and terror of Machiavelli's life and world, including his relationships to the city of Florence, the powerful Medici family, and the villainous Cesare Borgia (Machiavelli's ideal prince).
For those who have already heard The Prince, prepare to engage with the text on a deeper level than ever before. And for those who've always wanted to listen to this important book, this is your introduction to one man's revolutionary beliefs about achieving - and maintaining - power.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Professor Landon is a dazzling lecturer. He effectively weaves the life and story of Nicolo Machiavelli, the person, and his book, The Prince, with the broader geopolitical events of the Italian peninsula and the burgeoning religious wars in Europe, which ensconced his thought and work.

Professor Landon is not an apologist for The Prince. I would call him an intimate biographer of Nicolo, while drawing on the discipline of historiography to measure the ever evolving influence. He also draws on the work of others to bring greater depth and a broader lense to his subject matter.
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- Cherie Teasdale

A Fascinating Primer for the Curious Reader

Machiavelli's name, when dropped, never fails to intimidate, impressing upon all listening that the speaker must really know their stuff. Nodding, feigning understanding, each then scuttles away, making a mental memo to google the aforementioned historical character and gain this super power for themselves. But the enjoyment of Machiavelli's trademark adjective was overshadowed by that of his life and story within the first few minutes of this book. In truth, the very fact that no one really seems to know too much about Machiavelli, which I had expected to lend me such conversational auctoritas (if you will), is now a torture, as this series left me eager to talk about him. It's made me, I suppose you could say, a fan! The lecturer clearly has a strong affection for the man, which adds to the pleasure of listening. I have yet to read the Prince itself, hoping first to find a primer for the material before making the attempt. This book is exactly what I had hoped, and comes highly recommended! My one regret is not looking into this fascinating and important thinker sooner.
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- Pandora

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-19-2016
  • Publisher: The Great Courses