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The Prince, By Niccolo Machiavelli, trs Tim Parks

This is an excellent translation of The Prince by Parks, accessible and gripping without diluting Machiavelli's message one iota. His sense of this masterpiece as an essentially psychological work, one that looks at the effects of power of the mind, infuses his translation, and he never forgets its origins as a letter, as a means of conveying a message to a new ruler.

Parks shows, too, in his introduction, how amenable this text has been to both right- and left-wingers over the centuries: the right saw it as a warning about the power of the people, the left as a vindication.

Certainly, there are many passages, too,such as the one warning leaders of indecisiveness, which one suspects should be circled in red and handed to the present Prime Minister.

Machiavelli was showing how to achieve power and hold on to it: his ethical treatise was centred solely on this, which is what long frightened so many who were trying to impart notions of good and bad, not powerful and powerless.

I searched in vain for a section on MPs' expenses, though: financial probity seemingly wasn't important to leaders in the 16th century, either.