Machiavelli's The Prince - More than Meets the Eye.
Although very short and concisely written, Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince can be considered the first and definitive work of modern political philosophy. The book itself helped set the foundations of European political philosophy for nearly 450 years to come. At first look, Machiavelli's logical guide for the preservation of a prince's power seems to be an amoral approach to politics. To some, it may even seem cruel because of Machiavelli's complete disregard for the plight of the common people. However, there is much more to The Prince than such a superficial analysis of Machiavelli's political philosophy. To fully understand what Machiavelli wanted to say with The Prince, its historical and political contexts must first be understood as well as Machiavelli's personal motivations and a full analysis of the ideas he presents. .
The political situation in Italy while Machiavelli was alive played an extremely influential role in his writing The Prince. After the Peace of Lodi in 1454, the five major city-states of Italy - Venice, Florence, Milan, the Papal States, and Naples - had an alliance system that preserved a "balance of power" between their respective rulers (Speilvogel 312-313). This system only worked to provide short-term appeasement of conflicts, and eventually left the Italian peninsula disorganized and extremely vulnerable to an outside invader. Ironically, this situation is eerily similar to the state of Europe in the late nineteenth century that eventually led to World War I. Along with being vulnerable to outside attackers, Italy was also the center of commercial trade in the Mediterranean and it was only a matter of time until a powerful country seized the opportunity to take over such an obvious target. So in 1494, Charles VIII of France took control of Naples, which caused the northern city states to turn to Spain for help.