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My Notes on The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Notes on The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

I started reading The Prince a while back but didn’t finish it because it was complicated to read. The book was originally written in Latin, and then translated into english. Despite its translation it was still difficult to read.

I imagine that other people had a similar experience so I decided to go through the book and translate the translation.

Essentially I distilled the translation down into easy to understand conversational language.

I’m in the process of publishing my notes on Amazon, however in the meantime, here are the first few chapters that I translated:

Hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1: Two Types of Princedoms, New and Hereditary

A new Princedom is a Princedom you acquired through takeover. A hereditary Princedom is a Princedom that was given to you as a new ruler through your family’s dynasty.

Princedoms can either be acquired through your own arms, arms of another, and either by good fortune or merit (your own abilities).


Chapter 2: How to Govern and Maintain Hereditary Princedoms (also legacy businesses, etc)

Do what’s been done. Tackle problems as they arise and you’ll be fine unless some unexpected events occur.

If someone tries to take you over, you’ll probably get your rule back. The faction trying to take you over will inevitably encounter some road blocks and give you the opportunity to wrest back control.

A Prince by birth will be better loved than the alternative, unless you succumb to vices or do something reprehensible.

Legacy princedoms usually don’t innovate much. As soon as you change one thing, it may create a cascade of changes and new choices. These changes may lead to chaos or dissatisfaction amongst your subjects.


Chapter 3: Mixed Princedoms

New princedom takeovers often lead to problems. The ruled always think they’re better off with someone else in charge so they’re quick to take up arms.

In this case they’ll usually they end up worse off than before.

New rulers often can’t help but offend the current people. Your subjects are always going to be somewhat discontent.

The people you had to fight to gain your position will turn into enemies, and the people that helped often become upset because you may not be able to reward them as much as they think they deserve.

You have to set it up so you have the good will of the inhabitants. See if you can give them something or offer them something to smooth the process over.

When you take over a land, people will either speak your language or they won’t. Even if the recently conquered lands speak slightly different dialects and have only minor variations in their culture, they’ll usually get along with your new policies, etc.

So, if you take over these lands, be sure to annihilate the current bloodline of the former Prince and don’t raise taxes.

Note- In a business setting this may include smearing or denigrating or exposing the former leader’s shenanigans, or showing how he was hurting his own people with his policies.

It’s tough taking over a land with a much different language and culture from your own. The leader must go and stay there in person and build goodwill. When you are present there you can quickly put out fires and help fix the problems that arise.

As long as your officers don’t pillage the land and people, they’ll look to you for help or protection.

Therefore, if they’re good natured they’ll like you, and if they aren’t good natured, they’ll probably fear you.

One tactic you can use is to send out colonies to a few places (personally controlled proxy areas or departments), and re-staff provinces with your own people.

The only people that will complain are the people you displace. They won’t have any more power anyway, so you don’t really have to worry about them.

The leftover people won’t cause problems because they don’t want to be ousted. They saw what happened already.

Either treat them kindly or crush them so they can’t get back at you. They can’t avenge you if they’re totally annihilated.

If you send troops instead of a colony, it’s going to take a lot more resources to police the new areas. It’s better to colonize.

Weaken the strong and strengthen the weak. If you don’t you might easily lose what you’ve gained.

While you “occupy,” you can easily quell discord or anger. If you let it fester it may become a problem.

Be careful with anyone you ascend to power or greatness, as they may start to distrust you. They may feel they got power by your management or force, and they may feel they can be replaced in the same manner.


Chapter 4: Why the Kingdom of Darius Didn’t Rebel Against Alexander the Great’s Successors After His Death.

Princedoms exist usually in one of two ways. Either by a sole Prince where everybody else serves him and are permitted by his grace and favor to assist in governing, or by a Prince and Barons who hold their rank through heredity and govern their own states.

If a land is governed by a sole Prince he’ll have a whole lot more authority. Even if the Prince appoints people to look after parts of his princedom, the people will hold no special affection for his appointees.

If the land is governed by a Prince and Barons who have held their individual lands or states for a while through hereditary rule, the people will usually have some affection for these Barons and be loyal to them.

Alexander conquered Asia in a few years and died before he really took everything over. You might expect these newly conquered lands to reject him and revolt, but they didn’t. His successors were able to keep their hold and didn’t really encounter any problems except from their own jealousies and ambitions.

Before I get to why this worked out so well, a quick story:

The Turkish Empire vs France

The Turkish Empire was ran by a sole Prince and everyone was his “slave.” The Turkish Prince sent out his own governors and changed them around periodically.

France, on the other hand, is surrounded by nobles of ancient decent (basically royalty), each having respect and reverence of his people. The Prince can’t change them up without a lot of pushback.

The Turkish Empire can therefore be much more easily held.

There’s more unity in the empire and less chance of defectors or individual action against the Prince.

In France, all the lords can feasibly start movements against you with outside actors or help.

The only way to successfully take over a “France” situation is through attrition. Eventually the old Princes will be replaced by your appointments and over time they’ll respect your authority and rule.

In the case of Alexander and Darius, Darius’ empire was more like a Turkish Empire. Alexander utterly defeated Darius and stripped him of all his dominions, permanently securing the land. Everybody fell in line.

If it was like a “France” situation, all the individual provinces would probably have rebelled and it would have been much more difficult for Alexander to secure his control.

If you liked this, check out the notes I published on Amazon, available now!

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