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Books That Matter: "The Prince"

Professor Landon transforms this slim volume into a compendium of history, philosophy, and literature that will have you rethinking your preconceived ideas about what it means to be a leader in a complex world.
Books That Matter: The Prince is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 32.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great general history of Florentine history Learned as much about Borgias, Papacy Medici, and NIccoli Machiavelli. Lecturer is gifted.
Date published: 2022-09-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Can't open the file I cannot open the file:; please call me. I cannot open the file:; please call me.
Date published: 2022-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Prince.A self-help book for would be leaders. Very interesting, with so much of it relating to today's world of politics and business.
Date published: 2021-08-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Was Niccolo un-Machiavellian? Before starting these lectures I read a translation of Niccolo's "The Prince", and reviewed it earlier on Goodreads, trying what I thought might be an interesting exercise to see if my interpretation of this 'little book' would the same, or even similar to, Dr Landon's. It turns out that it was! I think it helps to have at least a working knowledge of the life and times of Machiavelli...what the environment of Florence was in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. I was helped by a recent visit to Florence during which I was impressed by the artistic and literary genius of that time, and the influences that Niccolo must have had. It also helps to know a bit about classical history about those leaders/tyrants who shaped their world is sometimes the most terrible ways. Dr Landon refers to him often as a literary genius and dedicated republican, as he certainly was. But these lectures filled gaps in his personal life that I didn't pick up...his religious views...his attempts at military endeavors...his somewhat unconventional personality...and finally, his purpose in writing a how-to book that was not intended for publication. I agree with Landon that the book was not intended as a satire, but rather a relatively naive attempt to unify Italy as a republican nation/state through any means available. I'm less sure about the good doctor's thoughts about Niccolo's potential influence on the horrible religious wars in the later 16th century. And, as for current leaders who have Machiavellian tendencies, I suppose only some future historian will be able to identify them, since the good (?) tyrants won't be recognized during their 'reign', especially the ones who have read this 'little book' (or had it read to them) And that could be HUUUUGE! Recommended for the history buff who is ready to do his/her homework...and who recognizes the value and power of a sale and coupon.
Date published: 2020-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Prince- Professor Landon Well laid out background into the history and time of Machiavelli. Professor Landon is very well versed in his subject and a pleasure to listen to. The guidebook that accompanies the set is edited and shorter that the lectures as Professor Landon goes into great detail and history. I am intrigued and captivated by this course.
Date published: 2019-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant set of lectures I've put off reading The Prince for years because I figured that without any background knowledge, I might not get the kind of experience out of the book that I would like. This course is excellent. It gives far more information than I thought it would and it is so well presented. I will definitely listen to the course again as I begin reading The Prince. What an excellent set of lectures.
Date published: 2019-04-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Book, the Writer, Florence and the Renaissance This is not necessarily a criticism, but this course was not exactly what I was expecting. Of course context is important when examining any worthwhile work, so a certain amount of discussion of Florence and other parts of what is now Italy before, during and after the Renaissance is appropriate, as is, understanding the Medici, the politics and religion of the times. I’m not sure how much of a mixture of the book and the other elements is correct, but for me, the contextual parts of this set of lectures could have been cut back and more direct critique of “The Prince” included. Others may well feel differently. For example, one whole lecture is devoted to whether or not Machiavelli was an atheist, plus there were significant sections of other lectures where his religiosity was called into question. For me this was a lot of time devoted to a side issue. One that no doubt deserved mention, and is important in giving a perspective that influenced the book, but one that could have been dealt with briefly, especially as there was no firm conclusion as to Machiavelli's belief(s). Professor Landon clearly knows his subject both broadly and in detail and his delivery is smooth, practiced and easy to follow. I thought that the weaving of the book and the writer into the times was well done, especially the parts that dealt with Machiavelli’s relations with other personalities of the day. Less convincing to me however, were the later lectures that centered on Machiavelli’s influence later, such as during the Enlightenment: Adams, Jefferson, Voltaire, Frederick the Great and Rousseau. On the other hand, the discussion of the possibility that The Prince is a work of satire certainly never occurred to me and I found the idea fascinating, even if Dr. Landon rejects the idea that other scholars have raised. I’d have liked more in-depth discussions of issues of this kind that dealt directly with the work itself. Overall worth listening to, but just be sure you are aware of the thrust of the course’s content before buying.
Date published: 2019-04-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Machiavelli NOT Apreciated! Presenter repeatedly said Machiavelli wrote about how the world IS but believed that he should have written about how the world SHOULD be. By that logic humanity would never have advanced even to the Stone Age.
Date published: 2018-06-27
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What does it really mean to be Machiavellian? Books That Matter: "The Prince" delves into one of the great books of Western history, revealing 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.


William Landon

In the hands of an objective truth-seeking historian, the fullness of your experiences, what we might call your humanity, would emerge, the good mingled with the bad, the real you treated fairly.


Northern Kentucky University

William Landon is a Professor of History at Northern Kentucky University. After chairing the Department of History and Geography for four years, he returned to full-time teaching and research. He received his MSc and PhD in History, with a particular emphasis on the life and works of Niccolò Machiavelli, from the University of Edinburgh.

Throughout his career, William has given lectures in North America, Europe, and Asia. He is the principal investigator for a multiyear National Science Foundation grant awarded to provide undergraduate students with training for the real world. He has published numerous articles, book chapters, and reviews on Renaissance-centric themes, and he is also the author of two books: Politics, Patriotism and Language: Niccolò Machiavelli’s “Secular Patria” and the Creation of an Italian National Identity and Lorenzo di Filippo Strozzi and Niccolò Machiavelli: Patron, Client, and the Pistola fatta per la peste/An Epistle Written Concerning the Plague. The latter included the first English biography of Lorenzo Strozzi and was nominated for the Renaissance Society of America’s Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Book Prize in 2013.

By This Professor

How the Medici Shaped the Renaissance
Books That Matter:


Who Was Niccolò Machiavelli?

01: Who Was Niccolò Machiavelli?

To truly understand The Prince, you have to understand the man who wrote it. After providing an overview of Machiavelli's early life, Professor Landon introduces you to Machiavelli's Italy, including its conflicts with the French and Spanish, its network of city-states, and its role as the seat of humanist thought.

29 min
Machiavelli’s Renaissance: Rise and Rebirth

02: Machiavelli’s Renaissance: Rise and Rebirth

Go back in time to Renaissance Florence: the city that shaped Machiavelli's formative years. You'll examine how Livy's Histories and the radical preacher Savonarola influenced Machiavelli's political thought, and you'll discover what Machiavelli learned about leadership from his experiences in the court of the fearsome Cesare Borgia.

29 min
Machiavelli’s Fall from Grace

03: Machiavelli’s Fall from Grace

Machiavelli reached the heights of success in 1509 with his Florentine militia. A few years later, he'd be exiled from his beloved Florence. Get the full story on these tumultuous years, which include military victories (and defeats), political machinations, the return of the Medici, and the end of the Republic.

27 min
Machiavelli’s Patronage Problem

04: Machiavelli’s Patronage Problem

To return from exile, Machiavelli needed a patron. What were the unwritten rules of the patron-client relationship in Renaissance Florence? How could Machiavelli gain entry to Lorenzo de' Medici's patronage network? See what a close reading of The Prince's dedicatory letter reveals about the irony of the author's predicament.

30 min
How to Conquer a Renaissance City-State

05: How to Conquer a Renaissance City-State

Turn now to Machiavelli's masterwork itself. First, learn where The Prince fits in the tradition of princely advice books (or mirrors"). Then, dive into the first six chapters, which discuss the two prominent forms of government, the wisdom of Alexander the Great, and the "destruction" of enemy states. "

27 min
Cesare Borgia: Machiavelli’s Perfect Prince

06: Cesare Borgia: Machiavelli’s Perfect Prince

Chapter Seven of The Prince, one of its most infamous chapters, uses the terrifying Borgia family as an example of the acquisition of power and political unification. In examining this section, you'll encounter one of the many troubling problems with Machiavellian thought: the use of amoral means to attain moral ends.

27 min
Machiavelli’s Criminal Princes

07: Machiavelli’s Criminal Princes

What were Machiavelli's views on achieving power through criminal means? If Cesare Borgia wasn't a criminal prince, then who was? Read between the lines of Chapter Eight of The Prince, which discusses the merits of cruel leaders by comparing Cesare Borgia with the careers of two other dastardly princes.

27 min
Church versus State in Machiavelli’s Italy

08: Church versus State in Machiavelli’s Italy

Continue to Chapter Nine, Of the Civil Princedom," in which Machiavelli lays out the strategies Lorenzo needs to employ if he wishes to remain successful. Then, look at Chapter Eleven, "Of Ecclesiastical Principalities," which advises Lorenzo to work with Pope Leo X to remove the Spanish and French from Italy."

26 min
Senecan Mirrors and Machiavellian Masks

09: Senecan Mirrors and Machiavellian Masks

One inspiration for The Prince was Seneca's De Clementia (On Clemency"), one of the most influential advice books of Machiavelli's time. After a brief look at this illustrious work, examine how Chapter Fifteen of The Prince completely undermines Seneca's advice-and all widely accepted forms of ethics and respect."

27 min
Fear Is Love: Machiavellian Authority

10: Fear Is Love: Machiavellian Authority

Is it better for a leader to be feared or loved? The Prince answers this question in Chapter Seventeen, which advocates for the use of terror to control one's subjects. Using literary works like Brave New World, open your eyes to the novelty-and horror-of Machiavelli's break from the classical tradition.

28 min
Machiavelli Reinvents Virtue

11: Machiavelli Reinvents Virtue

Focus on how The Prince subverted, in shocking and ironic ways, the vocabulary of classical political thought-specifically three Florentine words for Roman values: virtu (virtue"), stato ("the state") and patria ("patriotism"). Through these linguistic manipulations, Machiavelli revealed how blind people were to the harsh realities of Italian politics."

27 min
Verità Effettuale: Machiavellian Realism

12: Verità Effettuale: Machiavellian Realism

Chapter Eighteen of The Prince demolished the advice of Cicero and challenged the worldview of St. Paul. As you break down this chapter, you'll encounter one of the book's most famous passages, and you'll learn why Machiavelli envisioned a great prince as someone who was part fox and part lion.

28 min
Achieving Fame and Glory Machiavelli’s Way

13: Achieving Fame and Glory Machiavelli’s Way

Professor Landon guides you through Chapter Twenty-One of The Prince. Here, Machiavelli explains how a prince should make himself great through religion, and how he should conduct foreign wars to distract citizens from his consolidation of power at home. The best historical example of this prince: Ferdinand of Aragon.

27 min
The Irony of Machiavelli as Adviser

14: The Irony of Machiavelli as Adviser

How should a great prince select a personal adviser and avoid flatterers? To answer this question, you'll jump into the poisonous pit of the Florentine court and learn how The Prince was received by Machiavelli's friends, as well the author's tensions with one man linked to the center of power.

28 min
Machiavelli on Fighting Fortune

15: Machiavelli on Fighting Fortune

One of the most hotly debated chapters in The Prince is Chapter Twenty-Five, which declares Fortune to be the guide of human actions and suggests that great men must always live in a state of preparedness. How does Machiavelli come to grips with free will? What did Fortune mean to Florentines?

27 min
Machiavelli Calls for a United Italy

16: Machiavelli Calls for a United Italy

Filled with emotion, the final chapter of The Prince offers Lorenzo de' Medici pointed advice on how to liberate Italy from barbarians." Probe the scholarly debate over when this chapter was added to the text. Also, learn how The Prince compares with Machiavelli's other famous book on Republican idealism."

28 min
Machiavelli Reads Lucretius

17: Machiavelli Reads Lucretius

In the first of two lectures on the intellectual underpinnings of Machiavelli's political thought, Professor Landon explores how Epicurean materialism-as exemplified by Lucretius's famous poem De rerum natura (On the nature of things")-shaped the author's life while in exile, and also his writing of The Prince."

27 min
Lucretian Ethics in The Prince

18: Lucretian Ethics in The Prince

Ponder the connection between the writing of The Prince with the metaphor of Sisyphus's punishment rolling a boulder up a hill. You'll learn how a famous letter offers insights into Machiavelli's political divorce from Florence, and you'll ponder connections between Machiavelli and the 20th-century philosopher Albert Camus.

27 min
Was Machiavelli an Atheist?

19: Was Machiavelli an Atheist?

According to Professor Landon, Machiavelli was a materialist and possibly an atheist. How does this influence our reading of The Prince? What are some scholarly arguments that Machiavelli was a Christian? What does the author's private correspondence reveal? Consider the evidence and draw your own conclusions about Machiavelli's belief-or lack thereof.

28 min
The Machiavellian Moment

20: The Machiavellian Moment

The year 1527 saw the expulsion of the Medici, the restoration of the Florentine Republic, and the death of Machiavelli. Experience what it was like to live during the growing wars of religion. Then, spend time with the famous author during his last days and learn the fate of his little book.

27 min
Machiavelli in Hell: Banning The Prince

21: Machiavelli in Hell: Banning The Prince

Discover how The Prince was received by the generations who came after Machiavelli. You'll follow the book's journey from unpublished obscurity to its position on Pope Paul IV's Index of Banned Books to the preservation of its authentic, unedited text thanks to the help of Machiavelli's rebellious grandsons.

28 min
Machiavelli at Work in the Wars of Religion

22: Machiavelli at Work in the Wars of Religion

The ideas contained in The Prince were blamed for a number of historical atrocities. Here, spend some time with critics of Machiavelli's book, including Cardinal Reginald Pole (who declared the book to be written by Satan's finger"), the Protestant critic Innocent Gentillet, and even great English playwrights like William Shakespeare."

28 min
Machiavelli Redeemed: The Enlightenment

23: Machiavelli Redeemed: The Enlightenment

What was the role of The Prince in a world that turned to the Enlightenment and a focus on human rights? Find out how great minds and leaders from this era in modern history-including Frederick the Great of Prussia, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Adams-responded to Machiavelli's political ideas.

29 min
Machiavelli’s Legacy

24: Machiavelli’s Legacy

Survey the diversity of 20th-century responses to The Prince, from Benito Mussolini, who used it to justify his fascist dictatorship, to contemporary Renaissance scholars, who see the work as a brilliant piece of satire. Centuries after it was first written down, Machiavelli's ideas continue to resonate with human civilization.

28 min