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In The Prince, Machiavelli offers a monarchical ruler advice designed to keep that ruler in power. He recommends policies that would discourage mass political activism and channel subjects' energies into private pursuits. Machiavelli wanted to persuade the monarch that he could best preserve his power by the judicious use of violence, by respecting private property and the traditions of his subjects, and by promoting material prosperity. Machiavelli held that political life cannot be governed by a single set of moral or religious absolutes, and that the monarch may sometimes be excused for performing acts of violence and deception that would be ethically indefensible in private life. During the Renaissance, Italy was a scene of intense political conflict. The result was massive political intrigue, blackmail, and violence. The Prince was written against this backdrop, and in its conclusion Machiavelli issued an impassioned call for Italian unity, and an end to foreign intervention.
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Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy at a time when the country was in political upheaval. Italy was divided between four dominant city-states, and each of these was continually at the mercy of the stronger foreign governments of Europe. Since 1434 the wealthy Medici family ruled Florence. A reform movement, begun in 1494, temporarily interrupted their rule in which the young Machiavelli became an important diplomat. When the Medici family regained power in 1512 with the help of Spanish troops, Machiavelli was tortured and removed from public life. For the next 10 years he devoted himself to writing history, political philosophy, and even plays. He ultimately gained favor with the Medici family and was called back to public duty for the last two years of his life.