The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made
Few books in the history of the world have had a stronger, more lasting, or more errant impact than Machiavelli’s The Prince. One of its first interpreters called it “a courtier’s Koran.” A copy was found in Napoleon’s abandoned coach at Waterloo, and Hitler was said to have kept a copy at his bedside. Over the centuries, the view of the Machiavellian prince as a ruthless, immoral tyrant has dominated, but in this fascinating examination of the author and his work, scholar and statesman Philip Bobbitt argues that this is a misunderstanding stemming from mistranslations, political agendas, and readers overlooking Machiavelli’s earlier Discourses on Livy.
In The Garments of Court and Palace, Bobbitt debunks these myths and explains that Machiavelli’s argument was about the need to distinguish between a ruler’s personal and governing ethos. As a constitutional scholar and political philosopher with a deep personal knowledge of governance, Bobbitt is uniquely qualified to explain both Machiavelli’s ideas and their relevance to the complicated political situation of his day. Rather than a “mirror book” advising rulers, The Prince prophesied the end of the feudal era and the birth of the neoclassical state. Using both Renaissance examples and cases drawn from the current era, Bobbitt shows Machiavelli’s work is both profoundly moral and inherently constitutional, a turning point in our understanding of the relation between war, law, and the state.
Ethics and Political Philosophy | Law | Law and Philosophy | Law and Politics
New York, NY
“With his profound knowledge of history, philosophy, politics and law, Professor Bobbitt has made a major contribution to penetrating the thought of Machiavelli and illuminating its context. This extraordinary intellectual endeavor may well become a new standard interpretation.”
—Henry A. Kissinger
“Riddles for centuries, the beginning and ending of Machiavelli’s The Prince have finally found a plausible explanation…. Provocative.”
—Bryce Christensen, Booklist
“An astute reexamination of one of history’s most widely read documents of political instruction…. Despite its rigor, the book is anything but a bore, and Bobbitt employs apposite historical asides from Italy and elsewhere to make his points, including some popes behaving badly whom fans of Showtime’s The Borgias will recognize. This book should be required reading for any young ruler trying to organize his principality without blunder, or, failing that, anyone interested in the history of statecraft.”
—Nicholas Mancusi, The Daily Beast
“The value of Bobbitt’s book is that it puts on the front burner the thinking of a man referred to by Marlowe and Shakespeare and found on the must-read lists of Napoleon, Mussolini, and Hitler…. And Bobbitt is not without moments of wry humor.”
—Sante Fe New Mexican
Bobbitt, Philip Chase, "The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made" (2013). Faculty Books. 49.