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The Conquest of the Incas Paperback – 23 Jul 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Papermac; New edition edition (23 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333517946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333517949
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 4.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 355,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

After Oxford (History at Magdalen College) and learning magazine publishing in Toronto, I spent a year travelling all over Peru. Then my Oxford friend Richard Mason had the idea of being the first to descend and survey the Iriri river in central Brazil, which we thought was the longest unexplored river in the world. The Braziian government liked this, sent three surveyors, and gave us permission to name small things like waterfalls or streams. (We blew this by naming places after our then Brazilian girlfriends.) After four months of cutting and carrying into completely unexplored forests, our Brazilian woodsmen had built two dugout canoes and we were ready to descend the Iriri. But an unknown tribe found our trail, laid an ambush, and killed the first of our 11 men to walk into it - the leader, Richard Mason. The tribe was contacted 12 years later and proved to be one of the most warlike indigenous peoples in Amazonia - for whom 'stranger' and 'enemy' were the same word.

These experiences led to a love of South America and various books.
These included, about Peru 'The Conquest of the Incas' and later 'Monuments of the Incas', 'The Search for El Dorado' about the conquest of northern South America, and what became a trilogy about the exploration of Brazil and its indigenous peoples: 'Red Gold' (covering 1500-1760); 'Amazon Frontier' (1760-1910); and 'Die If You Must' (1910 to present). During the 1960s and early '70s I built up an exhibition-organising company, Brintex, while researching and writing books in spare time.

During two years I visited some 45 Indian tribes all over Brazil, four of them at the time of their first contact. These are wonderful and fascinating people, and some of the Brazilian Indian-service experts who contacted them were outstanding. I became a friend of the great humanitarians, Orlando and Claudio Villas Boas - and was the only non-Brazilian to be invited to the kuarup funerary ceremonies that the Indians held for both of them (in 1998 and 2003)- and also of the last great sertanista, Sydney Possuelo.

All this led to my getting the job of Director of the Royal Geographical Society. This was hard work but great fun. During 21 years as Director (1975-96), I revived that venerable place, turning round its dire finances, doubling the membership, making it more friendly for thousands of users, boosting its academic side, and personally running a lively lecture programme (from which I got to know all the great explorers). These were decades when the world was interested in environment and adventurous research, so we supported hundreds of researchers and organised eleven large projects all over the world for the RGS.

I myself led one of these projects, the Maraca Rainforest Project in northern Brazil (1987-88), which eventually had 150 scientists and 50 scientific technicians, mostly Brazilians, and yielded much knowledge about how forests function, over a hundred books (including three by me) and papers, and some 200 species new to science. It was the largest project ever organised in Amazonia by any European country, and a magical experience for all us participants.

Now I still manage to visit Peru and Brazil almost every year, am active in several charities, and chairman of Hemming Group Ltd. which publishes trade magazines and organises trade exhibitions and conferences. I am pleased that 'The Conquest of the Incas' is still in print for 42 years and I have just given it a second revision. A shorter history, 'Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon' (2009), and two of the Brazilian Indian histories have just been translated in that country. I am also proud that the Peruvians awarded me their two highest civilian orders: 'El Sol del Peru' and the grand cross of the Order of Merit; Brazil gave me the Cruzeiro do Sul (Order of the Southern Cross); and the UK the CMG (St Michael and St George).

Product Description


"'A superb work of narrative history' Antonia Fraser; 'It is a delight to praise a book of this quality which combines careful scholarship with sparkling narrative skill' Philip Magnus, Sunday Times; 'A superbly vivid history' The Times" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Hemming was Director of the Royal Geographical Society in London from 1975 to 1996. and is the author of fourteen books. On publication, The Conquest of the Incas won the Robert Pitman Literary Prize and the Christopher Medal in New York. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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ON 25 September 1513 a force of weary Spanish explorers cut through the forests of Panama and were confronted by an ocean: the Mar del Sur, the South Sea or Pacific Ocean. Read the first page
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 July 2001
Format: Paperback
In the 1850's the first history of the conquest was written by an American called Prescott who collated over candlelight lost documents and letters sent back to Andalucia by the conquistadors. Hemming took over this forgotten history, writing it for our times. This is the modern version; fast moving, all action, easy to read and difficult to put down. If you enjoy adventure novels, take a look at real history. The Inca's surrendered to the Spanish was as amazing as it was fatalistic, their legends predicting the coming of the white gods. Their ruler Atahualpa surrendered himself to the Pizarros. The Spanish brothers greed for all the gold evident around them, led to them forcing the native people to fill a room full of gold as ransom for their ruler.Legend or fact? Gold crafted during that period remains rare in that country. Once completed, the brutish Pizarro brothers murdered the Inca after a mock trial. This story is reviewed well by Hemming, with all the gentleness of one side, all the harshness and greed in the other. It has all the elements required to facinate and revolt the reader, and only the reader can nominate his or her own hero. The conquest of Peru remains one of the most thrilling areas of adventure history, is pure escapism, and enough to get you on the plane out there!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mauritius on 28 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
The dream of almost every historian is surely to write a book that manages to match rigorous research with that easy writing style that makes your tome just as appealing to readers who prefer story-based fiction. It is something of a dark art and many have failed. John Hemming, though, has succeeded spectacularly.

Such was the obvious quality and scholarship of this book when it came out in the early 1970s that many experts believed that `John Hemming' was the pseudonym of a more established historian who was somehow taking a risk - and not the real name of a postgraduate student with a passion for Peru. This book does that rare thing of involving you so much in the epic story of the conquest - from the 168 incongruous Conquistadors who formed the kernel of the conquest 1532, all the way to the capture of Tupac Amaru forty years later - that you find that you have casually assimilated and retained a huge amount of fascinating information. In other words, it is what parents and teachers would love their children to read, as it seamlessly combines education with rollercoaster entertainment.

There are patches here that are not for the weak-hearted: slaughter and treachery abound; deceit is rife and on a monumental scale; and despite the author's immensely skilled efforts to keep the narrative balanced, you still find yourself inexorably rooting for one side against the other, hugely mismatched as they are. There is an immediacy in the breathless pace and monumental Andean backdrop that screams quality and which has you gripped. It had me doing something that I've never done to a history book before or since: I read it twice more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By paola on 31 Mar. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ruining such a good book with bad formatting is extremely disappointing: in a non fiction text which for a third consists in endnotes it is inexcusable not to link to said endnotes, even more so considering this is the 2012 ebook edition. Truly pathetic. Do yourself a favour and buy the paper version.
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Format: Paperback
This is a quite brilliant work of narrative history. The early parts in particular rattle along like an adventure novel, and you have to constantly remind yourself that the extraordinary events described really did happen. Hemming makes exhaustive use of contemporary sources, often building paragraphs by weaving together quotations from 3 or 4 separate authors, adding to the sense of immediacy. Pauses in the action are filled with useful descriptions of Inca architecture or the panoply of Spanish and Inca soldiers, which help to draw a vivid picture of the people and places involved.

Later chapters deal with the development of various themes in the decades following the conquest, including the (mis)treatment of the natives in both theory and practice, the interminable arguments over the encomienda system, the importance of mining and the coca trade, experiments at various forms of government and the spread of Christianity. The book ends with brief reviews of the fates of the Inca descendants and the 19th/20th century search for the lost city of Vilcabamba. It is slightly dated now, as it doesn't include the latest research, but it is still recognised as one of the best available on the subject.

Almost inevitably, the tragedy that unfolds in these pages leaves the reader ardently wishing the Incas had won. Theirs was a well-run and not excessively unjust state, whilst the conquistadors seemed bent only on plunder.
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