Written in the 16th century, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli has come to be regarded by many historians and political experts as one of the oldest political primers in history. As a political philosopher Machiavelli sought to examine and analyzing the data he collected from reviewing past histories and testing different hypotheses. His objective approach to the subject matter is characteristic of the Renaissance period's critical thinking. .
While some have considered this book to be a bible for tyrants and condemn Machiavelli as a preacher of political immorality, the message that he was clearly trying to present was that the historically held beliefs that noble traits such as honesty and godly virtues that a ruler should possess would eventually lead to his destruction if and when the citizens choose to exploit his weakness. He believes that people in general are ungrateful, self-serving and greedy for gain. Machiavelli counters with the revolutionary concept that the use of any means including deceit and violence to achieve and maintain control, while respect for personal property and the traditions of one's subjects, and promotion of material prosperity are the keys to retaining power. .
Regardless of the reasons the book was written, it is remarkable that so many of the observations and suggestions contained within the publication can be seen five centuries later. As a manual for leaders and those hoping to attain power, it lists the qualities a leader must possess, the skills a leader must attain, and stresses what a leader must be willing to do in order to maintain his power and position for the continued existence of the state.
Machiavelli begins by identifying the various types of governments seen up to that time. He goes on to outline the means for establishing and maintaining each of these based upon his experiences and observations throughout his career. By analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each of these examples Machiavelli develops a set of proverbs for achieving and maintaining political power.