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Publisher's Summary

Mention the name Niccolò Machiavelli and you might unleash a powerful response - even among people who have never read a word of his writing. The word "Machiavellian" conjures up images of an indistinct figure quietly making his way through the darkest corridors of power; a cold-blooded political liar; or a coolly practical leader - amoral at best - willing to do whatever is necessary in a world governed not by ideas of right or wrong, but by solutions dictated by realpolitik.

But do these images bear any actual resemblance to the Machiavelli who lived, pondered, and wrote? In these 24 enlightening lectures, Professor Cook offers the opportunity to meet an extraordinarily thoughtful and sincere student of history and its lessons. You'll look beyond the sinister interpretations or caricatures of his writings and beliefs and get at the truth of this important Renaissance figure.

You'll discover, perhaps surprisingly, that Machiavelli believed in the superiority of a republican form of government; he wanted to live in a free and equal participatory society and influenced the development of institutions and values both in Europe and in America.

With a focus on The Prince, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy, and, more briefly, his Florentine Histories, Professor Cook moves easily among the different disciplines so pertinent to an understanding of Machiavelli's ideas, including history, philosophy, government, and the elements of leadership. The result is a thorough grounding in the information one needs to understand and appreciate this stunningly original thinker.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Machiavelli in Context

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Best Suited for High School Students

Any additional comments?

There is nothing in this lecture series that you won't be able to get in the introductory chapter of any decent edition of The Prince. And, it will save you from having to listen to such trite phrases as "Machiavelli's dad"; "Lorenzo Medici's grandpaw" or Machiavelli being likened to a "C-Span Jockey". I imagine the good professor must have thought that the audience for this lecture series would mainly consist of American high school students - given the language and overall tone of his lectures.

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Wow!! Machiavelli - Refreshing and Contrarian

A great Course!!!
One of my favorites.
If you have an interest in political philosophy and political histories, you will find this eye opening!!

Everyone has heard Machiavellian to describe less than moral approaches to a given situation.

This course puts it in context.

Machiavelli disagreed with Cicero and Aristotle on the theory of rule. Instead, Machiavelli focused on what Princes did throughout history critiquing what worked and what did not work and why.

The real treasure was the Discourses on Livy and the analysis of the Roman republic. His insights are deep. I have found myself applying what Machiavelli has taught me to situations that we see today.

What I found surprising is that Machiavelli concluded that the best form of government is the republic and NOT a principality.

The presentation and story are excellent. Dr Cook is very enthusiastic and has a clear mastery of the subject material

I have listened to this twice and have ordered my own translation on the Discourses on Livy.

9 people found this helpful

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Interesting topic/Poor lecturer

There is some very interesting material here but it is difficult to get to because of the lecturer’s style and tone. He has one level of presentation which is LOUD, almost shouting. He also speaks in a very colloquial manner rather than the university lecture style presentation of other courses I’ve listen to. Machiavelli is a fascinating subject and deserves a better presentation than in this series of lectures.

3 people found this helpful

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not for me

I really tried to listen to this bc I was interested in the topic but I could not. It felt like Professor Cook was yelling at me, I listen while driving back and forth to work and I could not get through it

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MINDBLOWING!

i always wanted to know exactly who he was and now i know, my mind is blown. His political views & tactics on the REPUBLIC government system was spot on in every way. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND EVERY US VOTING CITIZEN TO LISTEN!

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Profound

Don't dismiss the man because of the popular perception. This is a fundamental course for anybody remotely interested in history and/or leadership of any kind. Something for the ages.

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Great series, just not for my purposes

I have a dilemma when evaluating the Machiavelli in Context series: the content is fantastic, but the delivery verges into repetitive. I've found this problem to be endemic in The Great Courses books that I've bought; the lecturer tells you something interesting, then rephrases it several times, with decreasing levels of subtlety.

I listen to audio books when I run, to help the miles go by faster, and really wanted to love Machiavelli in Context. I've gotten a lot out of the book, so hopefully I'll have time to finish the lecture series. In the meanwhile, the pace is just too slow.

6 people found this helpful

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Masterful teaching!

Professor Cook has organized and taught an incredibly informative and insightful class. He truly puts Machiavelli IN CONTEXT.

This is great for anyone familiar with Machiavelli because Cook provides so much rich context that will give you an entirely new perspective. It's also perfect for newbies because it gives them a chance to read Machiavelli's works with the same understanding his contemporaries would have had so you can truly appreciate the man's incredible insights on political strategy.

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Inspiring and thought-provoking

Some reviewers have commented on disliking the lecturer’s tone of voice and style of lecturing. This is, of course, a matter of personal preference. For those concerned, sample the class and then decide whether to purchase. I personally found immense value from this class, and the professor’s perspective has inspired me to become a student of history. The most valuable lesson I took away from this class is the value of context in interpreting the messages of any historical writer. I would recommend this to anyone who is curious about Machiavelli, who has maybe read The Prince already and wants to hear a scholarly perspective on the book, as well as Machiavelli’s life and his other works, which are arguably much more important than The Prince, though lesser known (probably because they are harder to grasp, as the lecturer indicates). Overall, I came away from this course with a much more well-rounded understanding of Machiavelli, his inspirations, and how he inspired future generations of thinkers. I couldn’t recommend this course more.

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The REAL Machiavelli

Prof. William R. Cook puts himself totally at the feet of his beloved history in every class he teaches. His Machiavelli in Context not only delivers through Prof. Cook, but Cook may have achieved a monumental goal in deconstructing and reconstructing Nicolò Machiavelli (NM) using the writings of the man Machiavelli himself. Starting with NM's most popular book, The Prince, and moving to his longer, deeper works, Discourses on Livy (historian of Rome) and Florentine Histories, Prof. Cook paints a broad look at Machiavellian political/historical thought, allowing us to put aside the traditional pin-hole view of Machiavellian thought.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-04-21

Enlightening!

Extremely informative. Glad I chose the Great Courses. I never thought Machiavelli was such a deep thinker and actually very often misquoted and misunderstood.

Really the only complaint I could have mentioned, was the little trumpet music intros at the beginning of each chapter. Everything else was worth listening to...and most of it worth listening to more than once!

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  • Michele Zanobini
  • 10-01-20

A VERY basic intro to Machiavelli.

A VERY basic intro to Machiavelli. If you are somewhat already familiar with the author and are looking for some Academic insights do not bother listening to this because you won't find any.

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  • Aaron
  • 12-13-16

Awesome insight into machiavelli and who he was

Awesome insight into machiavelli and who he was. Delivery was very good. Very thought provoking!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-07-20

Highly recommended

Lecturer was pretty engaging for a topic that could be a little dry, absolutely succeeded in his task of getting us to understand Machiavelli for who he actually was and what he actually stood for.

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  • Howling Fantods
  • 06-23-19

good lectures with entertaining detail

You are bound to be interested and engaged with the content on this political thinker and learn much more than the straw man perceptions we often have of him

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  • Julian
  • 11-07-16

I found my views wonderfully challenged and changed

This unfolds into a great character study dotted all over with wonderful complex villains and flawed heroes, often in the same person too! There is an overarching kind of narrative that's all stitched together in the final few lectures that makes me feel like I would when watching The Wire. Don't know why but it is what it is. Try this one.