The Misunderstood Machiavelli

Rather than a handbook for tyrants, Machiavelli wrote The Prince as an ironical work, according to political scientist Erica Benner. Machiavelli was an ardent Republican during the time of the Medicis, de facto rulers of Florence, when the swing towards monarchy was strong. Read this way, The Prince can be seen as a cautionary work into the workings of tyranny and how best to recognize and fight it.

Witch hunts as political tools

Between 1560 and 1630, the Great Witch Hunt raged in Europe, which resulted in 80,000 accusations and 40,000 deaths? Why did this phenomenon grip the continent? Two economists argue that the underlying reason was to gain more followers. This took place against the backdrop of the Protestant Reformation.

To bolster their point, the authors point out that from about 900 to 1400, the church didn’t want to acknowledge the existence of witches; and consequently, it didn’t try people for witchcraft. In 1258, Pope Alexander IV even prohibited the prosecution of witchcraft. Yet a few centuries later, the church reversed its decision. According to the economists, it was because of the Protestant Reformation.

Sounds suspiciously familiar to our own modern phenomenon of the “Drug War.”

The Chinese worldview

History, Space, and Ethnicity: The Chinese Worldview is a relatively short article on how the pre-contact Chinese viewed their place in the world. From the introduction:

(1) What was the Chinese perception of the world, or world history, before China came into close contact with the rest of the world in the nineteenth century? And (2) how did this perception affect the work of historians from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) onward?

I am just about to finish a book on Islamic history, bookmarking this for future reference.