Books

Be Like the Fox

Erica Benner

LONGLISTED FOR THE HISTORICAL WRITERS' ASSOCIATION NON-FICTION CROWN 2017

'Lively, compulsively readable, fluently written and unshowily erudite' Guardian

'A gripping portrait of a brilliant political thinker, who understood the dangers of authoritarianism and looked for ways to curb them even though independent speech had become impossible' The New Yorker

'A ripping read . . . fascinating, charming, enjoyably unorthodox' Telegraph

Niccolò Machiavelli lived in a fiercely competitive world, one where brute wealth, brazen liars and ruthless self-promoters seemed to carry off all the prizes; where the wealthy elite grew richer at the expense of their fellow citizens. In times like these, many looked to crusading religion to solve their problems, or they turned to a new breed of leaders - super-rich dynasties like the Medici or military strongmen like Cesare Borgia; upstarts from outside the old ruling classes. In the republic of Florence, Machiavelli and his contemporaries faced a choice: should they capitulate to these new princes, or fight to save the city's democratic freedoms?

Be Like the Fox follows Machiavelli's dramatic quest for political and human freedom through his own eyes. Masterfully interweaving his words with those of his friends and enemies, Erica Benner breathes life into his penetrating, comical, often surprising comments on events. Far from the cynical henchman people think he was, Machiavelli emerges as his era's staunchest champion of liberty, a profound ethical thinker who refused to compromise his ideals to fit corrupt times. But he did sometimes have to mask his true convictions, becoming a great artist of fox-like dissimulation: a master of disguise in dangerous times.

Biography

Erica Benner lives in Berlin. She is the author of several books, including Machiavelli's Ethics and Machiavelli's Prince: A New Reading. A former fellow in Political Philosophy at Yale, she taught for many years at Oxford University and the London School of Economics.