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The conquest of New Spain (Penguin classics) Unknown Binding – 1963

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1963)
  • ASIN: B0000CLQZ3
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,332,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Spanish historian Bernal Diaz del Castillo (c.1492-1584) was a soldier in the army of the conquistador Cortes in the attack on the Aztecs.

J M Cohen translated widely from French and Spanish, including for Penguin Classics Montaigne's Essays and Cervantes' Don Quixote.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
BERNAL DIAZ DEL CASTILLO, the last survivor of the Conquerors of Mexico, died on his estates in Guatemala at the age of eight-nine, as poor as he had lived. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steven Brown TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Over the last couple of years I've been quite interested in the Spanish conquest of South America, and I had heard this book referred to a couple of times, so thought I would pick it up.

Anyone with even just a passing interest in South America history should grab a copy. It's easily one of the most gripping and interesting books I've ever read.

The story is translated from the original Spanish of a soldier who traveled with Hernan Cortes and his small band of soldiers, who eventually overthrew a rich and powerful civilisation.

Bernal Diaz' story starts with his involvement in a couple of early investigations of the Mexican coast, moving onto his expedition with Cortes. He explains the movements and battles in detail, meetings between 2 cultures who didn't really know what to make of each other, building towards the incredible climax of fearsome resistance and house to house fighting in the fall of Tenochtitlan.

A truly amazing book that is a must read for anyone with an interest in history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. J. Macdonald on 7 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bernal Diaz gives a highly readable,first hand account of the conquest of the Aztecs.What this man,when he died at the age of 89,had experienced in his life beggars belief and the story he tells is one that,if it appeared in a work of fiction and the events were unknown to us,would appear to be completely crazy.
At the start of his book,Diaz apologises to us for his plain style and unvarnished prose and this is one of the reasons this book is such a treat and difficult to put down-other centuries old books can be very hard work to read but not this.The rare occasions Diaz lets us peer into his soul-such as near the end when he describes the fear he felt going into battle with such a terrifying foe,having been nearly taken alive twice-are moving.
This is history at its most thrilling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Bad Guy on 28 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
When Bernal Diaz set out from Spain in the early 16th century he had no idea what lay before him. His was an adventure that wouuld see the collapse of the ancient empire of the Aztecs. Spain would assume supremacy in the New world and our world would be changed forever. Diaz gives a first-hand account of the miltary campaign, which he was actively engaged in, that led to these momentous world-changing events. He displays a deep understanding of, and sympathy with, the native Indians. His heart is always in the right place, but his sword is always in his right hand. Towards the end of his long life he took up his pen and bequeathed to us a book that puts flesh and blood on the dry bones of history. This is historical narrative at its most sweeping and compelling best.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 April 2002
Format: Paperback
The translator, Cohen, has drawn the salient facts from someone who was actually there, Bernal Diaz.
Helps you to understand the scale of what was achieved, how it was achieved, and what drove them to achieve.
Excellent. Written in a straightforward manner. Read it, then read it to my children who found it gripping.
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The story itself is fascinating: an account of 400+ Spanish soldiers and sailors who fought their way through Mexico, from the Gulf at Vera Cruz, to Montezuma's fortress city. It's just a pity that it was Bernal Diaz who decided to write the story, as his style is so pedestrian, repetitive and monotonous in voice. I have travelled the Americas extensively, Mexico in particular, so it was interesting to learn about this almost unbelievable adventure; the bravery of this band has likely been unsurpassed in history, especially considering the evidence of human sacrifice the soldiers witnessed as they moved closer towards the capital.

I almost put the book down, its style was so dry. But if you can get a quarter of the way in, it picks up and you begin to forgive Diaz's lack of flair. It's a fascinating document in itself. Worthwhile reading.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By sam.mason@bnc.ox.ac.uk on 1 July 2001
Format: Paperback
Bernal Diaz's account of his expirences in New Spain (i.e, Mexico and the Aztec Empire) is one of the key texts associated with the expansion into and colonisation of Central and South America by the Spanish in the Sixteenth Century. His first hand account of the Mexica and the practices of the Aztecs, as well as his description of the events leading up to the eventual defeat of the once mighty Aztec Empire by a small band of Spanish adventurers provides important and interesting information about this period and on South American History.
While there are notable inaccuracies and biases in Diaz's account, the editor (J.M. Cohen)provides an excellent interpretation of this primary document and points the reader in the right direction as far as what interpretation to give Diaz's text (written when the former soldier was a very old, and probably bitter, man). However, through no fault of the editor, Diaz suffers from considerable verbal diahorea and much of his account is neither intersting or relevant. Nevertheless, this is one of the most important and complete contemporary documents on the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, and also one of the few to survive.
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When I was about to buy this book, I was afraid that it would not be very precise or impartial, as it was written by a Spanish soldier that took part in the conquest of the Aztec Empire.
However, Bernal Diaz explained that it he himself wrote this book at the age of 70 (yes 70!) because he thought other writers would change the facts and exaggerate in the deeds of the Spanish people!
It's not tiring to read nor annoying and he writes in such a lively way that it seems we are living that dream of the discovery of New Spain !
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