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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Historical Masterpiece, 4 July 2000
In his "History of the Conquest of Mexico" and it's companion volume, the "History of the Conquest of Peru", William Prescott achieves the remarkable feat of portraying the action and adventures of the Spanish cavaliers in a highly readable format for those with little prior knowledge of the Conquests. The subject matter for these books is basically the clash of cultures that occurred between the Old World (in the form of Catholic Spain) and the New (in the form of the Aztecs in Mexico and the Incas in Peru). It is interesting to note that these books were written by in the early 19th century by a partially sighted American author who had never visited the countries but who had access to all available historical documents. The style of writing is such that the reader is never overwhelmed by detail and is continually impressed by the heroic feats of the Spanish and at the same time shocked by their cruelty to the indigenous poeples. In the "History of the Conquest of Mexico", Prescott provides an excellent acount of the origin and nature of Mexican civilization at the time of the conquest, describing how the Aztecs dominated the many races of Mexico with savage brutality, indulging in regular human sacrifices. He then goes on to describe the key player in this adventure, Hernando Cortes, and how he and a small party of cavaliers overcame overwhelming odds to defeat the armies of the Aztecs. While it is impossible not to admire the genius of Cortes, the reader is left in no doubt that the Spaniards were motivated by the promise of Aztec gold and not by the desire to "spread the word of God to the heathen". However, Prescott excuses the means by which Cortes overthrew the Aztec empire as it put an end to the Aztec practice of human sacrifice. In the second book, "History of the Conquest of Peru", Prescott finds no excuse for the manner in which Pizarro and Almagro conquered the relatively peaceful empire of the Incas. As with the first book, an interesting description of the Inca way of life precedes the action. While equally enthralling as the conquest of Mexico, Pizzaro accomplished the overthrow of the Incas by brute force, without the finesse of Cortes. The second half of this book deals with the remarkable events which followed the conquest; the two civil wars and their resolution by Pedro de la Gasca on behalf of the Spanish crown. It is difficult to find fault with Prescott's scientific approach to his writings; all of the events are backed up by references to documents written at the time of, or shortly after the conquests and these are given as valuable footnotes on each page. In addition, at the end of some of the chapters, Prescott writes short essays about his sources, describing which are trustworthy and which are prejudiced. If there were to be a fault with Prescott's approach, then it would his sympathy with the Catholic church during the years of the Conquest and his excusing of the Spanish atrocities as a means of spreading Christianity. But then we should bear in mind that Prescott was writing in the 1840s and was obviously a serious Christian. A second problem is that some of the footnotes are left in their original text, i.e. Spanish, Latin or sometimes Greek which presents problems to non-polyglots. The publishers have obviously not thought to translate these. In conclusion, these two books are essential reading for anyone interested in the empires of the Aztecs and Incas, and their overthrow by the Spanish Conquestadors. I have not read any other books on the subject which compare to Prescott's masterpieces.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ROMANTIC, GRUESOME, DEFINITIVE., 28 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Prescott shows why Cortes stands beside Alexander the III as a leader of epic campaigns; and he knows that, as with Alexander, there is more substance to the story than more 'pure-bred' academic historians will allow. This book also, obliquely, sheds light on U.S. American history in ways the reader may not expect from the title. Prescott does for America south of the Rio Grande what Francis Parkman (another great, unknown American historian) does for the northern forests. The works of both are treasures to be mined.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must read, 5 Dec 2001
Although I have only read the two parts of this book individually, I can say that for anyone who enjoys poetry, tragedy, a Hollywood blockbuster or just sheer beauty cannot die without having read this. A blind, nineteenth century Bostonion manages to blow the stunning Conquest of Mexico by Hugh Thomas out of the water. A true classic.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars history of mexico, 3 Feb 2013
item arrived earlier than expected and am looking forward to reading but at the moment i am reading about 19th Century Mexican history, the war of independence, the Texian rebellion, the US annexation of Texas and the subsequent Mexican-American war
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The Conquest of Mexico
The Conquest of Mexico by William H. Prescott (Audio CD - 30 Nov 2002)
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