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Few figures in intellectual history have proved as notorious and ambiguous as Niccolo Machiavelli. For 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 proposes a system of government that would uphold civic freedom and security by instilling the virtues of active citizenship, encouraging citizens to put the needs of the state above personal interests. Ambitious in scope, clear-eyed and pragmatic, "The Discourses" expound another modern theory of republican politics.
Niccolo Machivaelli (1469-1527) was appointed secretary to the Florentine Republic in 1498. He was dismissed from this post in 1512 and forced to withdraw from public life, after which time he wrote The Prince, a handbook for rulers. Leslie Walker translated many texts from Italian over the course of a distinguished career.