[Machiavelli] can still engage our attention with remarkable immediacy, and this cannot be explained solely by the appeal of his ironic observations on human behaviour. Perhaps the most important thing is the way he can compel us to reflect on our own priorities and the reasoning behind them; it is this intrusion into our own defenses that makes reading him an intriguing experience. As a scientific exponent of the political art Machiavelli may have had few followers; it is as a provocative rhetorician that he has had his real impact on history. from the Introduction by Dominic Baker-Smith
Niccol Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469 of an old citizen family. In 1498 he was appointed secretary and a second chancellor to the Florentine Republic. During his time of office he accompanied Julius II on his first campaign of conquest. In 1507, as chancellor of the newly appointed Nove di Milizia, he organised an infantry force which fought at the capture of Pisa in 1509. Three years later it was defeated by the Holy League at Prato, the Medici returned to Florence, and Machiavelli was excluded from public life. He retired to his farm near San Casciano, where he gave his time to study and writing. After a brief return to public life, he died in 1527. Tim Parks moved to Italy in 1981 and lives in Milan. Well known for his non-fiction writings on Italy - Italian Neighbours, An Italian Education - and his novels - Europa (shortlisted for the Booker Prize), Destiny, In Extremis - he has translated a number of Italian writers, in particular Macchiavelli, Leopardi, Moravia, Calvino, Tabucchi and Calasso. He has twice been awarded the John Florio Prize for Translation from the Italian.