Missouri State University’s Dr. Christopher Lynch, professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Philosophy, recently published his second book on the Italian military strategist and philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli.
“Machiavelli on War” has been published by the Cornell University Press.
The book is divided into four parts, beginning with an examination of Machiavelli’s role as a military official and his assessments of political problems.
Using Machiavelli’s diplomatic and government correspondence, his musings on military commanders, and writings such as “The Prince,” Lynch argues that Machiavelli was among the greatest of modern philosophers because he was the first modern philosopher of war.
Lynch spent over 10 years researching, writing and presenting his ideas to multiple conferences to complete the book.
An early interest in Machiavelli
Inspired by the graduate courses he was taking with Nathan Tarcov at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, Lynch decided he would focus on Machiavelli as his dissertation topic.
“I discovered that my favorite author – the ancient Greek philosopher-historian-warrior Xenophon – was also the favorite author of Machiavelli,” Lynch said.
The outbreak of the Gulf War at the same time also influenced Lynch’s decision to specialize in Machiavelli by causing him to reconsider his “lifelong convictions” on war and the use of force.
“[This led] me to consider narrowing my focus on Machiavelli to war in his thought and, years later, to my first book, an interpretation and scholarly translation of Machiavelli’s ‘Art of War’,” Lynch said.
Current events reflected in Machiavelli’s ideas
Lynch believes readers of “Machiavelli on War” can make connections between Machiavelli’s ideas on war and current events.
“The war in Gaza, the war in Ukraine, the prospects of both wars widening, and the possibility of a war with China over Taiwan all make clear the inextricably political character of war and the many military aspects of politics,” Lynch said.
“We tend to think of political life as normal and wars as occasional and unexpected accidents,” he continued. “Machiavelli presents war as constant and peace as humanly constructed or managed moments between wars.”
Lynch praised Machiavelli’s ability to assess the military and political needs of his time.
“Machiavelli had excellent judgment regarding the military-political needs and possibilities of his time and place,” Lynch said. “For example, and contrary to what many military historians have claimed, he understood the importance of technological innovations like hand-held firearms, heavy cavalry and bastioned fortresses.”
More books in the works
Lynch is currently working on two other book projects.
One book is a collaboration with Nathan Tarcov to translate Machiavelli’s stories, poems and comic letters.
“If the last book is about war and politics, the next is about love and sex, about which Machiavelli had a lot to say,” Lynch said.
The other book explores philosophical responses to Machiavelli’s understanding of the relationship between war and politics.
He plans to teach a class on this topic sometime in the next academic year.