Why is Niccolo Machiavelli a significant historical figure?  

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Niccolo Machiavelli was a 15-16th century Italian political philosopher who helped lay the foundation for modern political theory. Although he published many works, his most famous was The Prince. In The Prince, Machiavelli provided rulers with a "handbook" for how to successfully govern their domains and maintain power.

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Niccolo Machiavelli was a 15-16th century Italian political philosopher who helped lay the foundation for modern political theory. Although he published many works, his most famous was The Prince. In The Prince, Machiavelli provided rulers with a "handbook" for how to successfully govern their domains and maintain power.

The book's emphasis on power politics was quite controversial. For example, Machiavelli declared that:

Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.

Claims such as this contradicted the widespread belief that rulers should be governed by chivalry and Christian virtue (clearly, rulers did not always abide by this standard, but these were the expectations). Machiavelli said that rulers who only try to do what they "should" do will quickly find themselves deposed; thus, rulers should act "according to necessity," and sometimes necessity required doing things which might be considered bad. This idea was the forerunner to utilitarian politics, which argues, in short, that the "end justifies the means."

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