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The Conquest of New Spain (Classics) Paperback – 26 Jul 1973

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Impression edition (26 July 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140441239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140441239
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.


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4.2 out of 5 stars
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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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Sometimes extraordinary events are fortuitously recorded by a well placed participant. In this case, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, describes the 16th century Spanish discovery and defeat of the Mexican empire in an account that is so compelling that it is difficult to put down.
The basic facts are not disputed, and reveal the extraordinary military valour of Cortez and most of his men. He gives weight to existing tribal conflicts, the role of religious beliefs and also illustrates Cortez's manipulative cunning and great love of love of gold, even going as far as cheating his own men.
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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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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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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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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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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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