This article argues that issues of war and foreign affairs predominate in Machiavelli's Florentine Histories, a work generally taken to be devoted to the internal politics of Florence. The well-known narrative of the rise and fall of Medici rule is in fact driven by a counternarrative of the rise of mercenaries such as Francesco Sforza to the point of becoming the true arbiters of Italian affairs. The Florentine Histories lays out the progressive disarming of Italian powers, details the rise of a corrupt system of foreign affairs dominated by mercenary arms and their attendant papal meddling, and urgently counsels statesmen to arm their cities with arms of their own. Seeking to reframe interpretive approaches in this manner, the article sheds new light on Machiavelli's teaching on the desirability of well-managed domestic discords as they relate to military preparedness.
Christopher Lynch is Chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies Division and Associate Professor of Great Ideas and Political Science at Carthage College.