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The Spanish Invasion of Mexico, 1519-1521 (Essential Histories) [Paperback]

Charles M. Robinson

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Essential Histories are remarkably effective in presenting military events in the wider contexts of the new military history.

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At the beginning of the 16th century Spain had only recently emerged from almost eight centuries of civil wars collectively called the Reconquista (Reconquest) or the Moorish Wars, when the northern kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula, Castile and Aragon, fought to recover the land conquered by the Moors in the 8th century. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Succint but very good introduction to this subject 5 Aug 2009
By Yoda - Published on Amazon.com
For it's 93 page length (can be read in about an hour and a half) this book provides an impressive introduction to the its topic. It starts off with an introduction to the Cortez himself (as his impetus in what transpired was much more important than the impetus of the Spanish state) and the Aztec state's geopolitical position vis-a-vis its neighbors. The book then goes on to describes the military forces of each side and the history of what transpired (basically that Cortez had luck beyond imagination). The book, despite its short length, also discusses the importance played by Donna Marina (the 17 year slave girl who Cortez was given at the start of his adventures and whose lingual and skills played a paramount role in his victory [the author describes her as the world's most important women in the three years he was presented to Cortez]) and controversies such as whether or not Cortez actually had Montezuma killed (the author contends this unlikely while many others do not). The fact that such controversies are covered, while not in many much longer texts, provides an extra perspective that they do not. The author then goes into the immediate aftermath of the Aztec's defeat, not only in terms of the importance of the event from the perspective of the Spanish Empire but what had happened to Cortez and his leading compatriats (basically that they made a fortune then the Spanish state had seized it from them). All and all a very good expenditure of about 90 minutes of time, especially to those seeking an introduction.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative, a good read... 16 Mar 2011
By tlo - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
"The Spanish Invasion of Mexico" tells the story of the Conquistadores under Hernan Cortez, and their conquest of Mexico. It held my interest from cover to cover. It was required reading in History 140 at Palomar college, but I would have cheerfully read the book had it not been. There is a great emphasis on the collaboration of other Indian groups (not the Mexica) with Cortez... his success hinged on his ability to convince these groups to help him in his conquest of the Mexica.

Very well written, and in line with the latest research into this period of history.
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A clash of civilizations revisited (more relevant today than ever) 6 Mar 2007
By Buenoslibros.es - Published on Amazon.com
If only the Spaniards had been Anglosaxons, and Mexico spoke English today, we would have some great epic films to behold now. But poor race that we are, we haven't dared to make the first film; neither can the Mexicans, for that matter. (We, the West, have given up the Cross again, and are more prone to immolate OURSELVES on some sacrificial altar than try to find anything worth fighting for).

Now to the book. This is a great overview, succint and accessible to everybody. A pleasure to read, being so difficult to condense what other books took so many pages, sparsed with some very helpful and necessary maps and illustrations.

This book is titled 'Invasion', but I don't quite agree with its title, since this part of the conquest, the invasion, was fundamentally the key part of the whole process of conquest and subjugation of this area of America. It may be a condescension to PC readers but it is nothing but symbolical, since the story is what it was, and you can't change that. However, once that is said, there are no more hints of this type inside. The author simply summarizes the facts in a most reader-friendly way. He shows us the background of both peoples involved in this clash of civilizations, their beliefs, dreams and fears; in one word: what kind of people they were, without being judgemental.

Hernán Cortés was an extraordinary man.

One interesting exceprt: "Tlaxcala (one of the Mexican nations who fought alongside Cortés, against the Aztecs) remained faithful to the end, and throughout the colonial period (when Spaniards really messed it up, and Cortés being absent, the burocrats and carpetbaggers moved in) was described in Spanish sources as 'most loyal'. This has earned the modern city and state the disdain of other parts of Mexico, particularly Mexico City, where citizens contend that the country was betrayed by Tlaxcala. Modern Tlaxcalans, however, are equally touchy about their reasons for siding with Cortés, and are quick to point out all the grievances their country had with Aztec Mexico."

And this important piece of information: "To the very end, they (the Aztecs) were self-conscious of the fact that they were foreigners ... they believed that just as they had conquered and subjugated the natives, so others might conquer and subjugate them." Which certainly happened.

And: "Whatever the atrocities for which the Castilians may be blamed in the five centuries cince the Conquest, their acts paled in comparison to those of their Tlaxcalan allies. Centuries of hate and the basic viciousness of Mesoamerican warfare combined in a violence that appaled even Cortés himself." Cortés writes to the king of Spain: "I had posted Spaniards in every street, so that when the people began to come (to surrender) they might prevent our allies from killing those wretched people, whose numbers were uncountable. I also told the captains of our allies that on no account should any of those people be slain; but there were som many that we could not prevent more than fifteen thousand being killed and sacrificed (by the Tlaxcalans) that day."

Cuauhtémoc -the last Aztec emperor- was not a hero. He was the last tyrant of an imperialist and foreign nation. Of all the nations that dwelt in Mesoamerica in those years, the Aztecs (and they were always self-conscious of it) were as foreign as the Spaniards could be.

I recommend also the book "The Conquest of Darkness" by Warren Carroll. Very succint account of the same story but focusing more on the cultural and religious backgrounds of both Spaniards and Aztecs. Both these books complement each other perfectly. Read them. History is more relevant today than anytime before, lest we repeat our errors. Paradoxically, today, when I say "we", I mean the Aztecs. That's what our western civilization has become. Lord Jesus, your Kingdom come.
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