A Debut for Sean Erwin

Sep 22, 2022

Philosophy Professor Sean Erwin Makes a Literary Splash

His debut book, Machiavelli and the Problems of Military Force, offers a significant reinterpretation of the Renaissance thinker’s military theory.

For scholars of the Italian writer, military leader, and political thinker Niccolò Machiavelli, an important new book has arrived, and it is the work of Barry’s own Sean Erwin, Ph.D. and Professor of Philosophy.

Few people know that before Machiavelli was a political thinker, he successfully lobbied for the creation of Florence’s first militia, which he trained then led into victory over rival, Pisa.   

Machiavelli and the Problems of Military Force is the result of Erwin’s intensive research at the Vatican and Florentine libraries into the Florentine Secretary’s military theory, which prizes the patriotism of citizen-led militias.

Core to Machiavelli’s argument—which is detailed in the Art of War—is the notion that “a successful state is one that prefers to lose with its own arms (arma propriis) than to win with the arms of others (arma alienis).” (Bloomsbury) Drawing on the military theories of ancient Greek and Roman thinkers, Erwin shines new light on Machiavelli’s critiques of mercenary, auxiliary, and mixed forces.

Though Erwin has published extensively on the subject and serves as co-founder and co-chair of the International Machiavelli Society, Machiavelli and the Problems of Military Force is his first book. Since its release in July, readers have lauded the work as fresh and original, calling it “essential reading for all scholars who work within the field of Machiavelli studies.” One reviewer, Gabriele Pedullà, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at the University of Rome III, wrote:

When erudition meets creativity and conceptual rigor encounters historical research, there you have a book like Sean Erwin’s: a brilliant reinterpretation of Machiavelli’s military theory that finally reveals his (unjustly underrated) Art of War as a philosophical work of considerable weight. A welcome novelty in the crowded field of Machiavelli studies.

Professor Erwin’s book was published by Bloomsbury and is available now for purchase.

Sean Erwin

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