Mirrors for Princes and Sultans: Advice on the Art of Governance in the Medieval Christian and Islamic Worlds

When did European modes of political thought diverge from those that existed in other world regions? We compare Muslim and Christian political advice texts from the medieval period using automated text analysis to identify four major and 60 granular themes common to Muslim and Christian polities, and examine how emphasis on these topics evolves over time. For Muslim texts, we identify an inflection point in political discourse between the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, a juncture that historians suggest is an ideational watershed brought about by the Turkic and Mongol invaders. For Christian texts, we identify a decline in the relevance of religious appeals from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Our findings also suggest that Machiavelli’s Prince was less a turn away from religious discourse on statecraft than the culmination of centuries-long developments in European advice literature.