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The Prince summary

Niccolò Machiavelli

Machiavelli's classic text on leadership and politics

4.5 (417 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

The Prince is a seminal political treatise by Niccolò Machiavelli, offering practical advice on how rulers can maintain power and control in their realms.
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    The Prince
    Summary of 11 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 11

    To sustain his new principality, a prince must make his subjects feel valued while guarding against rivals.

    Imagine you’re a renaissance prince who has just conquered a new territory. The population of this new principality probably doesn’t want you as their ruler and sees you as an invader and outsider. So how would you keep them under control?

    The first rule for a prince is that you should always try to move to the principality yourself. The proximity to their new prince will make the locals feel appreciated, while simultaneously discouraging rivals from trying to reclaim the area.

    If you cannot move yourself, the second best option is to send a colony of your own subjects to live in the principality. This way your new subjects will become accustomed to the ways of your people and slowly adapt their society accordingly.

    A second rule is that you must always take measures to protect yourself from potential rivals to your power. To achieve this measure, adopt a policy of defending weak leaders around your new principality. If you protect them against more powerful enemies, they will gladly join your new state too and an alliance of such states can be powerful enough to challenge the more powerful leaders and states in the area who could otherwise threaten your power as well.

    The third rule is that you must constantly be on guard for future threats: be vigilant and take preemptive action. Just like illnesses are easier to treat in the beginning, so is it easier to halt the advance of an overly zealous rival early in their attack, such as after the first step.

    The ancient Romans used this tactic when they occupied Greece. They would allow no single local leader to grow more powerful than the others, no matter how loyal the leader was to the Romans.

    The importance of these rules can be seen in the plight of Louis XII of France who invaded Northern Italy. After successfully conquering the land, he then rapidly lost control of it because he violated all of the above rules. Don’t repeat his mistake.

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    What is The Prince about?

    The Prince is a 16th century guide on how to be an autocratic leader of a country. It explains why ends like glory and power always justify even brutal means for princes. Thanks to this book, the word “Machiavellian” came to mean using deceit and cunning to one’s advantage.

    The Prince Review

    The Prince (1532) is a timeless work that provides invaluable insights into political power dynamics. Here's what makes this book a must-read:

    • It challenges conventional morality in politics, encouraging pragmatism and realism.
    • The book offers practical advice for rulers, making it relevant even today.
    • It is a foundational text in political philosophy, inspiring countless thinkers and leaders.
      Delve into the world of power and politics with The Prince, and gain a deeper understanding of political strategy.

    Best quote from The Prince

    Anyone who is the cause of another becoming powerful comes to ruin himself.

    —Niccolò Machiavelli
    example alt text

    Who should read The Prince?

    • Anyone who wants to understand how autocratic leaders think
    • Anyone interested in political philosophy/history
    • Anyone who wants to know what truly cold, amoral leadership looks like

    About the Author

    Niccolò Machiavelli was an Italian Renaissance politician and writer living in Florence in the early 16th century. When the influential Medici family regained control over the city, he found himself unemployed, and The Prince was his job application to the new administration.

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    The Prince FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Prince?

    The Prince focuses on the pragmatic aspects of ruling and maintaining power, rather than adhering to conventional morality.

    How long does it take to read The Prince?

    The reading time for The Prince varies, but it typically takes around 3 hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is The Prince a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Prince is a thought-provoking classic that offers invaluable insights into political power dynamics and strategy.

    Who is the author of The Prince?

    The author of The Prince is Niccolò Machiavelli.

    How many chapters are in The Prince?

    The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli has 26 chapters. They are as follows

    1. How Many Kinds of Principalities There Are and How They Are Acquired
    2. Hereditary Principalities
    3. Mixed Principalities
    4. Why the Kingdom of Darius, Conquered by Alexander, Did Not Rebel Against His Successors After His Death
    5. How Cities or Principalities Which Lived by Their Own Laws Before They Were Conquered Should Be Administered
    6. New Principalities Acquired by One's Own Arms and Ability
    7. New Principalities Acquired by the Aid of Others and by Fortune
    8. Those Who Become Princes by Wicked Means
    9. The Civil Principality
    10. How the Strength of All Principalities Should Be Measured
    11. Ecclesiastical Principalities
    12. How Many Kinds of Soldiers There Are and Concerning Mercenaries
    13. Auxiliary, Mixed, and Native Troops
    14. How a Prince Should Organize His Militia
    15. The Things for Which Men, and Especially Princes, Are Praised or Blamed
    16. Liberality and Parsimony
    17. Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared, or the Contrary
    18. How Princes Should Keep Faith
    19. That One Should Avoid Being Despised and Hated
    20. Whether Fortresses and Many Other Things Which Princes Frequently Use Are Useful or Not
    21. How a Prince Should Act to Acquire a Reputation
    22. The Secretaries of Princes
    23. How Flatterers Should Be Avoided
    24. Why the Princes of Italy Have Lost Their States
    25. The Influence of Fortune in Human Affairs and How to Withstand Her, and
    26. An Exhortation to Seize Italy and to Free Her from the Barbarians.

    How many pages are in The Prince?

    The Prince has 140 pages.

    When was The Prince published?

    The Prince was published in 1532.

    What to read after The Prince?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Prince, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Sun Tzu and the Art of Business by Mark R. McNeilly
    • Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson
    • The Republic by Plato
    • The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    • The Art of War (new version) by Sun Tzu
    • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
    • Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg
    • The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
    • Read People Like a Book by Patrick King