The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli is one of the most influential books published during the Italian Renaissance. The work, an advice book to the Medici family on how to rule, is an example of the new values of humanism and secularism emerging during the Renaissance. I used to ask students to read this relatively brief work (127 or so pages) over the summer months. However, for the past 5 years, I wanted to make the course more inclusive to students. I stopped giving summer reading as a result. Interestingly enough, I have not seen a significant drop in my student scores. If anything, my scores have increased and I have had greater retention among lower skilled students at the start of the school year.
I still wanted students to have some type of sustained exposure to Machiavelli's seminal work. My lesson "The Prince: The Essential Quotes" provides just that. When reading The Prince myself, I noticed that Machiavelli has a thesis statement at the start of each chapter. He then supports his thesis with evidence from medieval and ancient histories. Modern students don't know about these events, but the thesis statements are interesting for them to consider. What I put together was the "thesis statement" that Machiavelli presents at the start of each chapter. Next, I ask students to put the statement in their own words. Finally, students consider their own life experiences and historical knowledge. They have to consider whether or not they think Machiavelli's claims are true or not. Students con complete this activity (14 total statements to evaluate) in class, or as homework. The next day students should have some class time to debrief and share their reflections on whether or not Machiavelli's statements are true. This could be a teacher lead discussion, a socratic seminar or a pair share.
As a teacher, it would be best to have introduced something about the politics of the Italian Peninsula during the Renaissance prior to assigning this reading so that students have some context for understanding The Prince prior to reading. I will also post a slide show on the emergence and political structure of the Italian City-State to accompany this lesson. If students have the lecture on the Italian City-State first, then you can also introduce the historical thinking skill of "Contextualization" which appears on both the European History AP and World History AP exams.