Mirrors for Princes

cyropaedia

Machiavelli

Mirrors for princes refers to a genre of political writing during the Middle Ages (5th to the 15th century) and the Renaissance (14th to the 17th century). They are best known in the form of textbooks which directly instruct kings or lesser rulers on certain aspects of rule and behavior, but in a broader sense, the term is also used to cover histories or literary works aimed at creating images of kings for imitation or avoidance.

They were often composed at the accession of a new king, when a young and inexperienced ruler was about to come to power. They could be viewed as a species of self-help book. Possibly the best known European ‘mirror’ is ‘Il Principe’ (‘The Prince’) (c. 1513) by Machiavelli, although this was not a typical example.

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