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by Nicolo Machiavelli
comments by Maarten Maartensz

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How Many Kinds Of Principalities There Are And By What Means They Are Acquired

Note 1:

ALL STATES, all powers, that have held and hold rule over men have been and are either republics or principalities.

Machiavelli in the present chapter tries to carve up his subject - which is political leadership: the terms "Prince", "Principe" etc. simply mean "The first" - in a logical way.   Back.

Note 2:

Principalities are either hereditary, in which the family has been long established; or they are new.

The new are either entirely new, as was Milan to Francesco Sforza, or they are, as it were, members annexed to the hereditary state of the prince who has acquired them, as was the kingdom of Naples to that of the King of Spain.

I shall not explain most of Machiavelli's historical references. In so far as Machiavelli refers to events or persons in Italy of his time or before his time, the reader can find most of them in any good encyclopedia or history.

Two excellent histories are:

J. Burckhardt: Die Kultur der Renaissanze in Italien
P. Burke: The Italian Renaissance

Of these the first is a classic of the 19th Century by one of the greatest historians ever, and the other a good recent history by a modern historian. There is now an English version of Birckhardt's text, with some notes by me, on my site.  Back.

Note 3:

Such dominions thus acquired are either accustomed to live under a prince, or to live in freedom; and are acquired either by the arms of the prince himself, or of others, or else by fortune or by ability.

At this point we have Machiavelli's outline of states and governments, more or less as follows:

Republics or monarchies
Hereditary or new
Dependent or independent
Habitually free or habitually subjects
Established by present rulers or others
Established by fortune or by ability

Of course, such distinctions are a bit arbitrary, and the distinctions Machiavelli draws have a lot to do with his subject: How to get and maintain the power in a state: how to become the first ("The Prince") in a country and how to remain in control.   Back.

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