I wish more history writing were like it, and if folks have recommendations I’d appreciate it.
The Prince is most famous but certainly Discourses on Livy is his biggest work.
She previously wrote a long series on Machiavelli which was a great deep dive into his life
If interested start here: https://www.exurbe.com/machiavelli-s-p-q-f/
Reading this part . . . :
"And he did go back to Rome, and then Della Rovere made him paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling knowing Michelangelo hated painting, basically as punishment for trying to run away. I’m not exaggerating."
. . . made me think of a quote by El Greco I once read:
"When he was later asked what he thought about Michelangelo, El Greco replied that "he was a good man, but he did not know how to paint", https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Greco#cite_ref-Scholz20_43-...
I thought that sounded almost like jealousy from El Greco's part and "how can you even say that about THE Michelangelo", but maybe he had a point after all (but what would I know :-)?
I find sometimes folks who are deep into a topic make statements about others who are similarly deep in that topic that sound very broad and general to me ... but really are more focused / about other things.
As contemporaries, although El Greco was only in his early twenties when Michelangelo died, I guess one would have less reverence for a fellow artist as one might have now many hundred years later.
El Greco saw himself as a master painter and colorist but Michaelangelo as just another passably capable producer of frescos and drawn bodies, a prolific grunt with no taste or style.
The first existence of the Prince is supposedly from 1513, while NM was still alive. However, the first printed version (which had to be approved by his arch rivals, the Medici's) wasnt available until 1532, 5 years after he died. Because of Italian politics at the time, NM was tortured by Medici family in 1513 (same year the first manuscript appeared...) because supposedly he was a political rival. Yet NM dedicated the Prince "To the Magnificent Lorenzo Di Piero De’ Medici". So was he a rival or not? Why would you release a manuscript like this which was surely scandalous when your political rivals already suspected you of being politically dangerous? Additionally, if this is your view of the world, why make it public? why not keep it hidden? Did the Medici release it merely to smear him as a purveyor of evil? Was he just sucking up to the Medici by honoring Lorenzo?
If you are the Medici, why would you allow a book like this to be printed? They certainly could bring it off the presses if they wanted.
In Chapter 1 of the Prince, NM tells us he is talking about Princes, not republics, and mentions he has written about republics elsewhere. His Discourses on Livy was not released until 1517 (unless there were earlier copies of that too, which is possible). So the original manuscript must have been edited to some degree from the (Medici) edition we read today.
If you have followed my line of thinking carefully, one would have to scrub NM from any mentions of being an evil teacher, encouraging dark traits, etc.
From wikipedia, final chapter of the Prince: "Pope Leo X was pope at the time the book was written and a member of the de Medici family. This chapter directly appeals to the Medici to use what has been summarized in order to conquer Italy using Italian armies, following the advice in the book. Gilbert (1938:222–30) showed that including such exhortation was not unusual in the genre of books full of advice for princes. But it is unusual that the Medici family's position of Papal power is openly named as something that should be used as a personal power base, as a tool of secular politics. Indeed, one example is the Borgia family's "recent" and controversial attempts to use church power in secular politics, often brutally executed. This continues a controversial theme throughout the book."
I have two theories:
1) NM tricked Medici into publishing the text.
2) Medici wanted to slander NM.
My guess is 2. Medici were not stupid. They were tyrants, but not stupid. Read Discourses to learn about NM.
The only, literally the only, part that sticks out as useful is "Doll out bad news in one portion, good news in spaced-out portions."
As far as "classic" general texts go, Sun Tzu is ages ahead of him in the Art of War in terms of advice that you can actually follow.