Garry Wills in The New York Times:
One expects a book by Philip Bobbitt to be over 900 pages (“The Shield of Achilles,” 2002) or just under 700 pages (“Terror and Consent,” 2008). Then how can he diet himself down to a mere 200 or so pages of text on Machiavelli? Bobbitt is a great systematizer in the Toynbee mold — “Shield” gave us six different state systems since 1500 (princely, kingly, territorial, imperial, national, market). “Terror” focused on one condition (the market state), but that state is still in formation, so Bobbitt argued its case more (and more and more) extensively. Then how does he deal with Machiavelli so compactly in “The Garments of Court and Palace”? Very easily, as one can tell by the frequency of his self-citations in the new book. He just shows us how wonderfully Machiavelli agreed with Bobbitt’s longer works — as if Niccolò had read them half a millennium ago. Machiavelli is often viewed as surprisingly modern, but does that have to mean he must be surprisingly Bobbitt?
Machiavelli fits into Bobbitt’s scheme because he is the expounder of the first of the six state systems in “The Shield of Achilles,” the princely one (Machiavelli even graced the form with its Bobbittian name). Bobbitt believes that legal systems are changed by military strategies, often by military technology. So, in 1494, when Charles VIII brought bronze cannon into Italy, threatening fortress walls and smashing the governments that relied on them, Machiavelli had to propose new walls, along with new states to defend them. This must mean that Machiavelli was interested in new technologies for war — though in fact he was not very interested in forts (he thought they were less vulnerable to siege than to inner rebellion). In the encyclopedic “Art of War,” he suggests an improved design for forts, but he is still concerned with inner rebellion (he forbids an inner keep where the residents can hole up and tells us starvation is more effectual than siege). Nor did he invest his time or energy in the technological innovations of Leonardo (their one collaboration, diverting a river, was an ancient concept, and it failed).