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Few figures in intellectual history have proved as notorious and ambiguous as Niccolò Machiavelli. But while his treatise The Prince made his name synonymous with autocratic ruthlessness and cynical manipulation, The Discourses (c.1517) shows a radically different outlook on the world of politics. In this carefully argued commentary on Livy’s history of republican Rome, Machiavelli proposed a system of government that would uphold civic freedom and security by instilling the virtues of active citizenship, and that would also encourage citizens to put the needs of the state above selfish, personal interests. Ambitious in scope, but also clear-eyed and pragmatic, The Discourses creates a modern theory of republic politics.
Leslie J. Walker’s definitive translation has been revised by Brian Richardson and is accompanied by an introduction by Bernard Crick, which illuminates Machiavelli’s historical context and his new theories of politics. This edition also includes suggestions for further reading and notes.