Machiavelli on Freedom and Civil Conflict

An Historical and Medical Approach to Political Thinking


In Machiavelli on Freedom and Civil Conflict: An Historical and Medical Approach to Political Thinking, Marie Gaille rethinks Machiavelli’s conception of civil conflict. In complete opposition to the common view of Machiavelli as a defender of tyranny, this analysis brings new elements to the forefront: the use of medical metaphors to describe the body politic, its historical lifespan and its institutional arrangement. This study is also based on a comprehensive approach to Machiavelli’s writings, including his most famous works, but also The History of Florence, his correspondence, and his political, military and diplomatic reports. This study allows Marie Gaille to propose an original assessment of Machiavelli’s insights for contemporary conceptions of democracy.

This is a revised and translated edition of Conflit Civil et Liberté: la Politique Machiavelienne entre Histoire et Médecine, first published in French, in 2004 by Éditions Honoré Champion.
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Biographical Note

Marie Gaille, Ph. D. (2001), National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), is a senior researcher in philosophy. She has published monographs, translations, special issues, and many articles on medical decisions and health issues, the relationship between medicine and politics, and the history of medicine.

Table of contents


Matters of Method

1 Describing Hot Societies
2 Tumult in the City: Neither to Abuse, Nor to Deride, but to Understand
3 On Institutions Favourable to Freedom: Machiavelli’s Use of Humoural Theory
4 Corruption and the Ethos of Freedom
5 Rome, Inimitable Paradigm
6 Machiavelli as a Mirror for Contemporary Democracy, or How to Ruminate on His Writings



All interested in political theory of the Renaissance era, its relationship to antiquity, and its terminology and frames of thought, as well as anyone concerned with the sources of contemporary thought about democracy.