This page features a collection of the best resources on Niccolò Machiavelli. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on Machiavelli. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about him.
To get started, simply choose one of the links below:
If you want an academic overview of Machiavelli:
- Read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Niccolò Machiavelli. However, you should keep in mind that the SEP is often quite technical and this article may be difficult for beginners. It’s also quite long at around 8700 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces Machiavelli:
“Why an entry on Machiavelli? That question might naturally and legitimately occur to anyone encountering an entry about him in an encyclopedia of philosophy. Certainly, Machiavelli contributed to a large number of important discourses in Western thought—political theory most notably, but also history and historiography, Italian literature, the principles of warfare, and diplomacy. But Machiavelli never seems to have considered himself a philosopher—indeed, he often overtly rejected philosophical inquiry as beside the point—nor do his credentials suggest that he fits comfortably into standard models of academic philosophy. His writings are maddeningly and notoriously unsystematic, inconsistent and sometimes self-contradictory. He tends to appeal to experience and example in the place of rigorous logical analysis. Yet succeeding thinkers who more easily qualify as philosophers of the first rank did (and do) feel compelled to engage with his ideas, either to dispute them or to incorporate his insights into their own teachings. Machiavelli may have grazed at the fringes of philosophy, but the impact of his musings has been widespread and lasting. The terms “Machiavellian” or “Machiavellism” find regular purchase among philosophers concerned with a range of ethical, political, and psychological phenomena, even if Machiavelli did not invent “Machiavellism” and may not even have been a “Machiavellian” in the sense often ascribed to him. Moreover, in Machiavelli’s critique of “grand” philosophical schemes, we find a challenge to the enterprise of philosophy that commands attention and demands consideration and response. Thus, Machiavelli deserves a place at the table in any comprehensive survey of philosophy. . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:
- Read Catherine Zuckert’s article: The prince of the people: Machiavelli was no ‘Machiavellian’ [3300 words]
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
- Listen to Quentin Skinner discuss Machiavelli’s The Prince on the Philosophy Bites podcast [26 mins]
Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can learn by using free online resources. If you want to learn more, check out this list of the best books on or by Machiavelli.
For more introductory philosophy resources and reading lists check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.