Primary fashion sources for the Renaissance are incredibly difficult to come by. Even if I did have the money to travel around Europe seeing surviving garments I would only have seen maybe 3 or 4 outfits. This is where Machiavelli comes in.
The last book I read was a discussion of Elizabeth I as a Renaissance Prince. It relied heavily on The Prince as a primary source. So I thought to understand a little more about Elizabeth I should actually read The Prince. Now it wasn’t exactly a page turner and at only 96 pages long it was still quite hard to get through but I am really glad I have read it.
The Prince is not only relevant in the context of 16th century European kings. The ideas that Machiavelli discusses relate to modern politics and celebrity culture. The basis as many people often understand it is that the ends justify the means. So I was surprised when I discovered that really the most prominent theme in The Prince is how important it is to be loved by the people and if you can’t be loved, be feared.
There is a lot of Italian history and classical reference to come to terms with. The edition I read was translated by award winning translator Peter Constantine and his footnotes made the whole experience much more accessible. A little like when I read The Godfather you get very caught up in the world, Machiavelli’s arguments are very convincing. It all seems so rational and justifiable but with a little perspective you come to realise that removing your enemies doesn’t mean just sending them away to a remote island.
The Prince has been a wonderful primary source for my dissertation but I recommend it in a much wider context. It is chillingly pragmatic and a real eye opener for anybody interested in politic or history.
Would recommend to: the politically curious.