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‘A notorious fiend’, ‘generally odious’, ‘he seems hideous, and so he is.’
Thanks to the invidious reputation of his most famous work, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli exerts a unique hold over the popular imagination. But was Machiavelli as sinister as he is often thought to be? Might he not have been an infinitely more sympathetic figure, prone to political missteps, professional failures and personal dramas?
Alexander Lee reveals the man behind the myth, following him from cradle to grave, from his father’s penury and the abuse he suffered at a teacher’s hands, to his marriage and his many affairs (with both men and women), to his political triumphs and, ultimately, his fall from grace and exile. In doing so, Lee uncovers hitherto unobserved connections between Machiavelli’s life and thought. He also reveals the world through which Machiavelli moved: from the great halls of Renaissance Florence to the court of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, from the dungeons of the Stinche prison to the Rucellai gardens, where he would begin work on some of his last great works.
As much a portrait of an age as of a uniquely engaging man, Lee’s gripping and definitive biography takes the reader into Machiavelli’s world – and his work – more completely than ever before.
Immensely readable . . . Machiavelli emerges from Lee's account as one of the Italian Renaissance's greatest figures. * Financial Times 'Books of the Summer' * [A] fine new biography ... Lee tells his story with verve. -- Lauro Martines * Times Literary Supplement * From Lee's magisterial biography, rich in detail and light on speculation, the writer emerges as a flawed but markedly fascinating individual -- Nicholas Cranfield * Church Times * His life and times are presented in their complex, contradictory fullness, as is Machiavelli himself . . . Lee is to be especially applauded for his even-handed treatment of a controversial historical figure. -- Joanne Paul * BBC History Magazine * Alexander Lee's Machiavelli: His Life and Times sets a wholly new standard for English-language biographies of the Florentine thinker, synthesising recent academic research and placing his subject in a vividly described context of Renaissance society and everyday life -- Tony Barber * Financial Times * A wonderfully assured and utterly riveting biography that captures not only the much-maligned Machiavelli, but also the spirit of his time and place. A monumental achievement. -- Jessie Childs, author of God's Traitors [T]he definitive book on Machiavelli -- Christopher Hart * Sunday Times * [A] weighty and impressively detailed biography -- Michael Prodger * The Times * A superb work of scholarship, securely grounded in the turbulent Italy of Machiavelli's day, and unflinchingly truthful. Machiavelli's letters and papers are so plangent and lively, it is tempting to go easy on him. Lee is fond of his subject, but not indulgent. -- Ferdinand Mount * Prospect * A fine new biography. -- Simon Heffer * Telegraph * Detailed, accessible and authoritative . . . an utterly absorbing month-by-month, often day-by-day account of Machiavelli's life and career. -- John Guy * Literary Review * The result is a life of Machiavelli that must surely be definitive in its faithfulness to the man and his experience of his time . . . Lee presents a novel interpretation of his subject's thinking. -- John Gray * New Statesman *
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