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Daily Life of the Aztecs Paperback – 14 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (14 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842125087
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842125083
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 914,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Jacques Soustelle was born in Montpellier in 1912 and attained fame both as a scholar and a politician. He made an exhaustive study of the Aztec language, society, art and architecture, rituals and beliefs. Following his retirement from active politics at the time of the first Algerian revolt, he returned to Paris to reassume a position he had held since 1937-Director of the most famous ethnological museum in the world, the Musee de l'Homme. He died in 1990.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alby on 7 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a book that has stuck in my mind for over a decade since first reading it. It's one of the essential, classic works on Mesoamerican civilization, and despite the passage of many years since its publication, it is still one of the most readable accounts of Aztec life. The focus of the book is on life in Tenochtitlan, supplemented with material on other Nahuatl-speaking cities (Texcoco, etc), and not on the archaeology or wider history of Mesoamerica. It is an intimate portrait rather than an overview, and as such it has lost little value over time. The details of the development of Aztec civilization as presented by Soustelle are broadly correct, and the understanding of everyday life can hardly have progressed over the decades, especially as most of our sources have remained the same (especially Bernardino de Sahagun). This works as an excellent primer on the Aztecs, and it would be a good choice for a world history or anthropology reading list. Reading this before embarking on Inga Clendinnen's or Caroline Dodds Pennock's more recent works will allow those latter to fill in the blanks and to flesh out the picture provided by Soustelle's easily-readable, erudite, fascinating book.

Soustelle was not simply interested in the Aztecs, and wrote several articles on non-Nahua topics, including Otomi life and society. This means that his account allows for the diversity of people who must have lived in and visited Tenochtitlan and the Valley of Mexico in pre-Cortesian times - and this really brings that world to life.

This is simply one of the best introductory works to any human civilization, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Utterly brilliant! 21 May 2006
By Christopher Hazell - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm a bit surprised nobody has yet reviewed this incredible book. Well, I might as well be the first.

The long short of it is: Anybody interested in Aztecs needs to read this book.

Soustelle ably demonstrates that there was more to Aztec society then war and human sacrifice, as he leads us first through the daily life of the average citizen of the Aztec empire, and from there goes on to talk about almost everything that a citizen could possibly come in contact with, from big things like the legal and educational systems, down to little things like what they ate where they went to the bathroom.

Soustelle's style is engaging and easy to read, and his immense admiration for the Aztecs is visible in nearly every sentence. In fact, sometimes it's almost too visible, as Soustelle doesn't really use the objective, detached style of writing that we modern readers are used to finding in history books. He often outright condemns both the Aztec merchant class and the Spanish conquistadors, which is a big no-no in history writing. That said, he spends most of the book examining subjects he admires, so these condemnations only occur in a few passages, and generally his enthusiasm for the subject matter is highly infectious. I'd be surprised if, after finishing this book, you didn't become a big Aztec booster.

There is only one other problem that kept me from giving the book a full five stars; it's a bit outdated. While the vast majority of information in Daily Life of the Aztecs is accurate, due to Soustelle's extensive use of primary sources, certain archeological evidence and ethnographical research has contradicted, or, more often expanded on Soustelle's understanding of Aztec life.

Because of this, you might want to select another more contemporary book as a companion to this one (If your library has a copy of the other Daily Life of the Aztecs, the one by David Carrasco and Scott Sessions, I recommend that one). I say companion because even though research on Aztec history has progressed since Soustelle's book was published in 1955, no modern book I have found comes close to having the breadth of subject matter or ease of reading as Daily Life of the Aztecs.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
If Only I Could Give This 6 Stars! 15 Oct. 2011
By Roy K. Farber - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not about the blood and guts we so often read, and is so very far removed from the 1st person perceptions of the Christian Conquistadors and those who have founded their version of reality thereon, and yet answers the central question of how so few such Uglies could kill so many and obliterate something as great as the Mexica Civilization. But Cortez is more of just a stopping point, the zenith of this civilization that was so rapidly maturing, becoming increasingly ever-finer, more dignified, literate, majestic, on its path to somewhere we'll now never know, with with rules of honorable behavior and thought that made them so unfortunately ill-prepared for the coming of The Aliens! Oh, but they had truly been Barbarians, we might all be speaking Nahuatl....

There are some Great Reviews here on Amazon of this very same book, only with the full title of Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest. Check those out &, yes, get this book!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The savages were not the Aztecs 26 July 2013
By Gaselen - Published on
Format: Paperback
Indeed, the savages were not the Aztecs...!
This book could be read like a novel. Jacques Soustelle was a great teacher (no wonder he was also a good politician). He deciphered for us the intricate ways of a "young" civilization that tragically meet people coming from Europe (one might say March?).
So, did you know that Mexican tamales were already on the Aztecs menu before 1500 ?
Do read a superb book!
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