Machiavelli in Context

Narrated by: William R. Cook
Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (381 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Mention the name Niccolò Machiavelli and you might unleash a powerful response - even among people who have never read a word of his writing. The word "Machiavellian" conjures up images of an indistinct figure quietly making his way through the darkest corridors of power; a cold-blooded political liar; or a coolly practical leader - amoral at best - willing to do whatever is necessary in a world governed not by ideas of right or wrong, but by solutions dictated by realpolitik.

But do these images bear any actual resemblance to the Machiavelli who lived, pondered, and wrote? In these 24 enlightening lectures, Professor Cook offers the opportunity to meet an extraordinarily thoughtful and sincere student of history and its lessons. You'll look beyond the sinister interpretations or caricatures of his writings and beliefs and get at the truth of this important Renaissance figure.

You'll discover, perhaps surprisingly, that Machiavelli believed in the superiority of a republican form of government; he wanted to live in a free and equal participatory society and influenced the development of institutions and values both in Europe and in America.

With a focus on The Prince, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy, and, more briefly, his Florentine Histories, Professor Cook moves easily among the different disciplines so pertinent to an understanding of Machiavelli's ideas, including history, philosophy, government, and the elements of leadership. The result is a thorough grounding in the information one needs to understand and appreciate this stunningly original thinker.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Machiavelli in Context

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Best Suited for High School Students

Any additional comments?

There is nothing in this lecture series that you won't be able to get in the introductory chapter of any decent edition of The Prince. And, it will save you from having to listen to such trite phrases as "Machiavelli's dad"; "Lorenzo Medici's grandpaw" or Machiavelli being likened to a "C-Span Jockey". I imagine the good professor must have thought that the audience for this lecture series would mainly consist of American high school students - given the language and overall tone of his lectures.

9 people found this helpful

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Wow!! Machiavelli - Refreshing and Contrarian

A great Course!!!
One of my favorites.
If you have an interest in political philosophy and political histories, you will find this eye opening!!

Everyone has heard Machiavellian to describe less than moral approaches to a given situation.

This course puts it in context.

Machiavelli disagreed with Cicero and Aristotle on the theory of rule. Instead, Machiavelli focused on what Princes did throughout history critiquing what worked and what did not work and why.

The real treasure was the Discourses on Livy and the analysis of the Roman republic. His insights are deep. I have found myself applying what Machiavelli has taught me to situations that we see today.

What I found surprising is that Machiavelli concluded that the best form of government is the republic and NOT a principality.

The presentation and story are excellent. Dr Cook is very enthusiastic and has a clear mastery of the subject material

I have listened to this twice and have ordered my own translation on the Discourses on Livy.

7 people found this helpful

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Interesting topic/Poor lecturer

There is some very interesting material here but it is difficult to get to because of the lecturer’s style and tone. He has one level of presentation which is LOUD, almost shouting. He also speaks in a very colloquial manner rather than the university lecture style presentation of other courses I’ve listen to. Machiavelli is a fascinating subject and deserves a better presentation than in this series of lectures.

1 person found this helpful

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Profound

Don't dismiss the man because of the popular perception. This is a fundamental course for anybody remotely interested in history and/or leadership of any kind. Something for the ages.

4 people found this helpful

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Masterful teaching!

Professor Cook has organized and taught an incredibly informative and insightful class. He truly puts Machiavelli IN CONTEXT.

This is great for anyone familiar with Machiavelli because Cook provides so much rich context that will give you an entirely new perspective. It's also perfect for newbies because it gives them a chance to read Machiavelli's works with the same understanding his contemporaries would have had so you can truly appreciate the man's incredible insights on political strategy.

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MINDBLOWING!

i always wanted to know exactly who he was and now i know, my mind is blown. His political views & tactics on the REPUBLIC government system was spot on in every way. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND EVERY US VOTING CITIZEN TO LISTEN!

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Great series, just not for my purposes

I have a dilemma when evaluating the Machiavelli in Context series: the content is fantastic, but the delivery verges into repetitive. I've found this problem to be endemic in The Great Courses books that I've bought; the lecturer tells you something interesting, then rephrases it several times, with decreasing levels of subtlety.

I listen to audio books when I run, to help the miles go by faster, and really wanted to love Machiavelli in Context. I've gotten a lot out of the book, so hopefully I'll have time to finish the lecture series. In the meanwhile, the pace is just too slow.

5 people found this helpful

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Thorough and Profound but Missing a Piece.

This series of lectures was profound, and the professor speaks with great fervour but often lowers his voice on the last and usually most-important word in a sentence. His knowledge of Renaissance-Era History was as vast as the title of this course implies, and he devotes about 40% of his lectures on The Prince, 50% on The Discourses on Livy (which is presently unavailable on Audible), a modest 10% on The History of Florence, but nothing on The Art of War (which was the only book published during the author's lifetime). The professor elaborates on an epiphany that I had formed about binary opposites and how every positive thing has its own negative translation; for example, he talks about how short-term kindness can become long-term cruelty, and conversely short-term cruelty can become kindness in the long-term. The author was obviously fascinated with the ancient past and with what Rome had done to become so powerful and magnificent in the first place, but he was by no means delusional about the past and would not look at it through rose-tinted glasses. Some of Rome's successful strategies were its tendency to make allies out of its underdog neighbors, its arming of citizens, and its inclusion of foreigners into Roman government and citizenship.

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Enlightening and relevant lessons!

30 years ago, I read The Prince in a Human Quest class during college. I made a mental note to reread it as you get a deeper understanding with a review of any matter. Finding Dr. Cook’s ‘Machiavelli in Context’ gave me a fresh and in-depth appreciation of Nicoló Machiavelli. Dr. Cook’s detailed analysis coupled with his enthusiastic delivery makes this audible an amazing listening experience! Truly enjoyed this course and highly recommend it!

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Awesome

The fullest examination of Machiavelli i have come across, a man of deep and profound thinking, lectures were well placed and engaging,like a book you can't out down i finished the whole course in two weeks.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-07-20

Highly recommended

Lecturer was pretty engaging for a topic that could be a little dry, absolutely succeeded in his task of getting us to understand Machiavelli for who he actually was and what he actually stood for.

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  • Howling Fantods
  • 06-23-19

good lectures with entertaining detail

You are bound to be interested and engaged with the content on this political thinker and learn much more than the straw man perceptions we often have of him

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  • Aaron
  • 12-13-16

Awesome insight into machiavelli and who he was

Awesome insight into machiavelli and who he was. Delivery was very good. Very thought provoking!

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  • Julian
  • 11-07-16

I found my views wonderfully challenged and changed

This unfolds into a great character study dotted all over with wonderful complex villains and flawed heroes, often in the same person too! There is an overarching kind of narrative that's all stitched together in the final few lectures that makes me feel like I would when watching The Wire. Don't know why but it is what it is. Try this one.