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on 11 July 2001
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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on 28 February 2009
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.

To choose between this book and its most obvious companion - Kim MacQuarrie's more modern and equally good `Last Days of the Incas' - is perhaps not necessary. The minute you finish one, you'll just want to read the other, and perhaps secretly hope that second time round the outcome - somehow - will be different.

This is a magnificent achievement in historical research and natural story-telling that can truly be said to inspire.
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on 31 March 2013
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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on 11 February 2006
This book whilst historical is written in an easy to read style and is hard to put down. Excellent book and highly recommended to anyone wanting to get a feel of the story of the conquest of Peru.
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on 13 August 2012
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. Although one can't expect the 16th century Spanish hard men from Extremadura to subscribe to our 21st century touchy-feely sensibilities, it should be remembered that even at the time they had their vehement critics in the shape of Las Casas and Vitoria and others, and the morality of the Conquista gave rise to a good deal of soul-searching at the Spanish court as early as the 1510s, leading to a string of humane laws which most colonists cheerfully ignored. Hemming is at pains to give a scrupulously balanced account, not glossing over Spanish abuses and exploitation, but at the same time reminding the reader that "a genuine concern for native welfare throughout the colonial Church and government" was at least partly responsible for the fact that "Quecha-speaking Indians of Peru now form the majority of its population - a very different situation from that of the natives of former colonies in North America".
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on 27 November 2012
This book, first published 40 years ago, but revised and updated by the author for this new 2012 edition, has always been acknowledged as the definitive work on the collapse of the Inca empire. It is wonderfully readable, wearing its immense scholarship lightly and bringing the period magically back to life. The book is required reading for those with any interest in the region or the period.

It is also worth noting that the e-book is beautifully executed; the maps, for example, which are often rendered virtually unreadable by the digitisation process, are as good as on the printed page. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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on 21 April 2014
A clear and concise account of the proceedings. It must have been very tempting for Hemming to simply criticise the invaders for the numerous atrocities and general mistreatment of the inhabitants. In fact his description is quite enough. He also spends a lot of time on the search for Vilcabamba and whether Macchu Picchu was in fact the same place, which does not have enormous bearing on the conquest, so I am not sure why it was there apart from making the book longer! Therefore four stars.
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on 12 May 2013
This book made the most superb accompaniment to a recent trip to Peru, giving dramatic life to the ruins, the mountains, and the artefacts which were the background to the Inca civilization. Backed by a formidable body of research, it tells the deeply moving, often unbearably sad, story of the destruction of an empire. It was totally involving and I looked forward to returning to it each evening.
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on 16 October 2012
As scholarly and important as 'The Conquest of the Incas' is, the key to it all are the stories that lie at the heart of the book. Of course, they are terrific and exciting stories to begin with but Hemmings true gift is to bring those stories and those characters so vividly to life.
'The Conquest of the Incas' is effectively the history of mankind in microcosm and the additions in the 2012 edition only add to its dazzling brilliance.
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on 20 September 2012
I've relied on this book for over 30 years (well, the first edition, which I read in the mid-seventies, having ploughed through Prescott's work a few years before). As other reviewers have commented, it's easy to read and mesterful in its detail.

So much more scholarship has emerged since the 1970s, I can see I'm going to have to invest in a Kindle to get John Hemming's take on it all.

Chris Parrott, Journey Latin America
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