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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about Books that Matter: The Prince

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The history is destroyed by moralizing and biases.

What disappointed you about Books that Matter: The Prince?

I selected this course because I was interested in the history of the time of Machiavelli. It is an interesting and complex era. Some of the greatest artists and thinkers, for example Da Vinci, were contemporizes of Machiavelli in Renaissance Florence. It was also a time when the Christian Church wielded a great deal of power and was not above war and murder to accomplish it's ends. I had heard of The Prince and knew the definition of "Machiavellian". So who was this man? What did he write that earned him a infamous place in history?

The course contains interesting facts about the time an place and the man himself. There is an attempt to present a balanced, factual view of Machiavelli. Why then to I give the course a 1?

The gross flaw in the course was not apparent at first. In retrospect the first hints were in apology for the facts being violent and offensive. I assumed that the professor is used to teaching college age students who recently have demonstrated a great sensitivity to things that offend them and let it go. As the course progresses, more and more adjectives such a "evil" and "immoral" are used the describe the historic individuals in the course. The moral judgments increased through the course to the point that I was no longer able to filter them out and concentrate on the historical facts being presented.

By way of background, I teach at the graduate level in a different field for a program associated with George Washington University. As an instructor I have an obligation to present facts such as research findings and experiential information just as they are without inserting my own opinions and biases. I leave it to the students to make their own judgments. One of the subjects I teach is business ethics and I must confess it is sometimes a challenge to remain neutral in my presentation. A question ask is this: Is there a difference between personal and business ethics? I leave it to the students to evaluate there and others answer. Further, I have spent seven decades living, learning and observing contemporary history.

By putting so much moralizing in the course, it is my opinion, that Landon has given up his role as a dispassionate observe and reporter of history. This disqualifies him in my as a reliable source. Further, the actions of historic figures must, and can only be interpreted in the context of the culture and associated ethical values of the time. To do otherwise can lead to a society where history is rewritten and artifacts and writings from the period destroyed. The Christian church did such things following the "Romafacation" of the church. More recently the Taliban did the same in Afghanistan destroying ancient Buddhist monuments and violently repressing the people.

What is more distressing to me is watching folks in the USA in the present moment, many of whom may have received and education from such an Langdon, full of judgments and moralizing about history, destroying statues of Confederates because they are offended by slavery. Slavery is a fact of history in most cultures until the past couple of centuries. Landon does no service to history by his constant moralizing and may do a disservice to his country by interpreting history with contemporary values. I do not think I am being extreme by stating educating impressionable young people with courses full of judgments and moralizing contributes to the desire to destroy "offensive" history. This destruction can lead eventually to a culture that is repressive of individual thought and freedom as did the Christian church of the middle ages, the Chinese cultural revolution under Mao, the Taliban to name a few. The final irony is the offended left wing extremists are using Machiavellian amoral tactics to achieve "good" ends. At least I got that much out of the course.

What three words best describe Professor William Landon’s performance?

clear logical biased

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Books that Matter: The Prince?

All of the moralizing.

Any additional comments?

Sadness for the state of our educational system overall. Disappointed that I could not finish the course.

19 people found this helpful

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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.

19 people found this helpful

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Dazzling

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.

11 people found this helpful

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excellent

this is the best narrator I've had yet. the subject matter is also great if you want to learn more about pre unified Italy

10 people found this helpful

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Awful Course

The teacher is so busy tripping over his own self-righteousness and clarifying his moral superiority to ever really go down what he calls "the rabbit hole" of Machiavelli. It takes less time to actually read the book and you'll get more out of it. The students at Northern Kentucky U must require constant grade-school-level reassurance to "don't try this at home"

9 people found this helpful

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To much talking about what is going to be talked about

The author spends about half of the time in this reading using statements such as "in this lecture we'll discuss....," "last lecture we discussed....," "next time we'll discuss....,""Nicola's little book....," and "isn't this shocking?"

The added value from a literal reading of The Prince is a good historical, personal, and social framing for the text and its author; however, this value is buried by the monotony described above. I had to stop half way because I couldn't get bear the authors meaningless dialogue any longer.

9 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Too much other stuff

This exhaustively researched title covers essentially the life of Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th century Florentine philosopher whose infamous book The Prince has been revered for centuries. It's practical advice which ignores conventional morality has been a guide for tyrants throughout history for its advice for fooling your subjects into loving you. Without getting into the various arguments of this book, my reason for giving only three stars is what I said in the first paragraph applies. The content of the book is too short for talking about for 24 lectures so a large amount of lecture time is spent on background and Machiavelli's motivation. This title would be better as 16 lectures. Be warned.

8 people found this helpful

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Excellent Context

Professor Landon does an excellent job at providing context on when, why and to who The Prince was written.

6 people found this helpful

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Thorough and enlightening

Professor Landon's enthusiasm for The Prince and its author is evident throughout the lectures, which are concise, entertaining, and always educational. He explores the text of the book and its meanings, along with the historical context of Machiavelli's life, his personal biography, and the book's history and influence after its author's death. Truly a wonderful experience.

6 people found this helpful

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Intresting

I will be honest, I've never read the prince and from what I've heard people getting into arguments about Nikolia having a hard on for Ceasere vs. people saying it was outright satire, I had no idea who he was till playing Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.

I still have not read the book, which I think would have made this lecture even better, but I liked getting an overview. These lectures focus on the life of Nikolai, the background and what time he comes from.

I like that the lecturer never told us what to think, he very clearly states his views but he does not claim the are the only ones and gives other possible options that are theorized even if he doesn't believe them. the lecture goes past when Nikolai died, going up to the 20th century.

This lecture only whetted my appetite to learn more about him, I never would have thought him a genius but now I want to read his works and find out for myself, if nothing else he was a realist and I want to learn more, this lecture gives all the facts you can want about his life and a good overview of the Prince, I'd argue best you can have without reading it for yourself, but only touches on other works.

definetly recommended for anyone intrested in politics or history.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Robert Sciberras
  • 11-30-16

excellent overview of the Prince.

The lecture series supports understanding and gives context to The Prince, which is mostly impenetrable when read raw.

The delivery is pleasant.

The organisation of ideas flows logically and is very engaging.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sebastian Jönsson
  • 05-29-22

A complete potrait

A very good summary of the work, the inspirations and man behind 'the Prince'.

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  • The Phantom Agent
  • 08-24-20

Stating the obvious

Far too slow and repetitive. Just repeating what the author says in different words does not constitute analysis.

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  • Silvija Jarnjak
  • 04-12-19

Excellent overview

This is excellent to read while reading the book or before to be able to follow up and understand The Prince!

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  • Steve
  • 01-20-17

Didn't get it

I get Machiavelli try to see the world as it is and do what he thought was necessary to get what he wanted, but how does that make him a genius? The author tells that Machiavelli is such a genius but does not show it.

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