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Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire by [Thomas, Hugh]
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Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire Kindle Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Length: 749 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled
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Product Description


"As a historian, Thomas is master of the big picture ! Rivers of Gold sweeps us restlessly on" - Jonathan Keates, Spectator 'As an intelligent and incisive narrative the book would be hard to better... It is unusual to finish so long a book wishing for more' Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

An epic narrative history of the New World and the people who discovered and conquered it.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 26963 KB
  • Print Length: 749 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (28 Nov. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DOMGX98
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #257,245 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book has an odd mix of excessive detail, lack of analysis, and engaging stories that never quite add up to a coherent narrative. I started it with the greatest enthusiasm, as I was reading about a dazzling array of personalities I dimly remembered from middle school texts, but towards the middle of the book felt lost in all the aristocratic titles, complete cargo lists (!), painstakingly twisted theological disputes, and gruesome skirmishes with doomed Indian chiefs. The reader, or at least I, simply could not see quite where the author was intending to go with all the facts and figures. It was like he was not just mistaking the forest for the trees, but for individual leaves.

Indeed, this is really two books. In the first 450 pages, in my reading, the author paints a tableau of the how the politics of a newly united Spain impacted first the explorers and then the conquistadors of the Americas. Fernando and Isabel not only united Aragon and Castille in a uniquely successful joint monarchy as sovereigns of their respective kingdoms as well as brought a highly independent aristocracy under tighter control, but they expelled the last Moslems as well as all non-converted Jews from southern Spain in 1492. These issues left them little time to pay attention to the explorers, though they (or Isabel) did seem to favor Columbus, who was granted unusually extensive rights. Their stories are successfully intermingled.

Isabel's motives for authorizing Columbus' explorations were complex: spread the faith, open a new trade route, and find gold.
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Format: Hardcover
The Spanish Empire is one of history’s turning points, which makes the significant lack of information available to the English reader inexplicable. We know it existed, but we know very little of its nature and compositions, indeed, I’ve met people who believe that the Spanish only ever held Cuba and the Philippines, which they lost to America in 1898.
Recently, however, there has been an upsurge in books dedicated to that period of history. Spain’s Road to Empire is one such book – and now Hugh Thomas has added his own book on the subject. In doing so he provides background to ‘The Conquest of Mexico’, which he wrote several years before and is still the definite (if long-winded) word on the subject.
Thomas begins by examining the victory of the two monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, perhaps the ablest monarchs in an outstanding generation of European rulers, over the Muslims. This victory completed their quest to unify Spain under their banner. He then discusses the processes and politics that led to Spain (and Portugal) becoming involved in the New World and the development of what we, in later years, would call the ‘white mans burden’. Not unlike the British, the Spanish monarchy would consider the native Americans their responsibility, while adopting an attitude of complete unconcern over the fate of Jews, Muslims and Conversos, who were Jews who had embraced Christianity.
There is frustratingly little detail on the problems in Spain that resulted from Charles becoming Holy Roman Emperor. The Commeros revolt looks a little like the Nomonhan incident – we know its important, but how many sources are there on it?
There is ample ground for alternate history speculations.
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Format: Paperback
This book suffers from an excess of irrelevant detail that all but stifles the narrative. You would think it would be hard to make this story dull, but somehow the author has managed it. No-one could doubt his erudition, and there are some interesting facts - but even these are lost in a sea of trivia. Talking of lost at sea, after taking up a hefty chunk of the book setting the context and charting the minutiae of all Columbus's perambulations around Spain and Portugal, finally the great navigator sets sail. 'At last', you think, 'Now the epic story starts.' But the author dismisses the most significant voyage in world history with the breezy assertion that this has been covered elsewhere before so often that we don't need to dwell on it! Then there are the digressions about the Spanish court's involvement in Italy... ARRRGGHH!
I gave up before Cortez ever arrived on the scene (if he ever did).
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Format: Paperback
After his `Conquest of Mexico', Hugh Thomas produces another gem of a book with this, the story of the rise of the Spanish Empire. A book that covers the most amazing events of the time; the discovery of the new world, the Pacific via Panama, the conquest of Mexico and of course the first world circumnavigation. All through a book that is an easy read but thoroughly detailed in every way.

To discover, often conquer, then colonise and to administer so many countries in such a short period of time in the era of sail is simply amazing. More so when the era in question for Spain was punctuated with a certain amount of intrinsic turmoil with the inquisition in full flow, the ongoing battle against the Moors and internal unrest. In addition Spain was also coming to terms with a foreigner on the throne in the form of Flemish born Charles the first after the deaths of Isabel and Fernando.

Discover they did though and the book unfolds to tell us of the vision and determination of the great men who went forth and found a new world and thus created for Spain an Empire that was second to none for several hundred years. Columbus, Balboa, Ponce de Leon, Cortes and Magellan are just a few of those legends that have now enshrined themselves in history. These pioneers of the day eventually prompted thousands of their countrymen to make the leap to live in the new world, to find new riches and to serve god. They believed that the rivers in the new world flowed with gold and in the end Spain found riches in vast quantities and used it's conquistadores to bleed the new world of its wealth.
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