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Michael Jackson and Damian Grace

This article analyses the way in which the life and works of Niccolò Machiavelli are misunderstood and misconstrued by writers and scholars, in the fields of management, personality research and primate studies. While adjectives like 'Machiavellian' and nouns like 'Machiavellianism' have become part of the vernacular, these scholarly usages trade on, perpetuate and reinforce stereotypes of Machiavelli in (1) a host of books and articles in management, (2) an instrument to assess personality that has been administered to thousands of subjects around the world, and (3) authoritative studies of primate behaviours from the Netherlands to Japan. The distorted Machiavelli depicted in these fields is but a shadow of the deft, insightful and elusive Machiavelli of The Prince, The Discourses, Mandragola, The Art of War, The Florentine Histories and more. We suggest that colleagues should recognise and rebut these shadowy Machiavellis in teaching, scholarship and research. If specialists in history and political science ignore them, they will continue to obscure the reality.