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What we get wrong about Machiavelli

The Renaissance thinker wasn't as diabolical—or as original—as we often assume

No moral anchor: Machiavelli. Photo: © incamerastock / Alamy Stock Photo

In Wolf Hall, while Thomas Cromwell is getting over his wife’s death, he whiles away the time reading Niccolò Machiavelli’s Principalities: “it is a Latin edition, shoddily printed in Naples, which seems to have passed through many hands.” Actually it must have been a manuscript not a printed copy, because we are in early 1529, and the first edition was published three years later, but certainly the real Cromwell does seem to have been well acquainted with the…

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