The Review of Politics

Research Article

Dating The Prince: Beginnings and Endings

William J. Connell

Let's begin by presenting some newly discovered documents concerning Niccolò Machiavelli. The biographical detail may at first appear overwhelming, but the light these documents shed on the chronology of Machiavelli's composition of The Prince helps to answer some old questions concerning the character of Machiavelli's little treatise. The new documents date from the year 1515. They were drawn up at a time of financial difficulty and profound personal disappointment in the life of the former Florentine secretary and second chancellor. In 1512 Machiavelli had been fired from the chancery of the Florentine Republic. In 1513 he had been arrested on a probably false charge of conspiracy, tortured (although he gave no confession), and then unexpectedly freed in a general amnesty following the election of a Florentine, Giovanni de' Medici, as Pope Leo X. In 1515, at the time these documents were drawn up, Machiavelli was still out of favor. But he was also putting into prose the theoretical work that established the extraordinary reputation still associated with him today.

William J. Connell is Professor and La Motta Chair, Department of History, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ 07079 (