(Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
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Rejecting the traditional values of political theory, Machiavelli drew upon his own experiences of office in the turbulent Florentine republic to write his celebrated treatise on statecraft. While Machiavelli was only one of the many Florentine “prophets of force,” he differed from the ruling elite in recognizing the complexity and fluidity of political life.
All the states, all the dominions under whose authority men have lived in the past and live now have been and are either republics or principalities. Principalities are hereditary, with their prince's family long established as rulers, or they are new. The new are completely new, as was Milan to Francesco Sforza, or they are like limbs joined to the hereditary state of the prince who acquires them, as is the kingdom of Naples in relation to the king of Spain. Dominions so acquired are accustomed to be under a prince, or used to freedom; a prince wins them either with the arms of others or with his own, either by fortune or by prowess.