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A sweeping, authoritative history that aims to deepen our understanding of the campaigns and conquests that propelled a small European kingdom to become one of the greatest empires in the world Over the few short decades that followed Christopher Columbus's first landing in the Caribbean in 1492, Spain conquered the two most formidable civilizations of the Americas: the Azt A sweeping, authoritative history that aims to deepen our understanding of the campaigns and conquests that propelled a small European kingdom to become one of the greatest empires in the world Over the few short decades that followed Christopher Columbus's first landing in the Caribbean in 1492, Spain conquered the two most formidable civilizations of the Americas: the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, and the other explorers and soldiers that took part in these expeditions dedicated their lives to seeking political and religious glory, helping to build an empire unlike any the world had ever seen. Centuries later, two dominant narratives about these conquests have prevailed--one of the romance and exoticism of adventure, the other of cruelty and exploitation of innocent people at the service of politics and religious bigotry. In The Conquistadors, Mexican historian Fernando Cervantes--himself a descendent of one of the conquistadors--tells the complete story of the conquests while steering a middle course between these two viewpoints. He argues that, while the conquistadors had undeniable faults, the tendency to condemn them tells us more about our modern sense of shame than it does about their original intentions. Drawing upon previously untapped primary sources that include diaries, letters, chronicles, and polemical treatises, Cervantes reframes the story of the Spanish conquest of the New World, examining the late medieval world from which the conquistadors emerged. At the heart of the story are the conquistadors themselves, whose epic ambitions and moral contradictions defined an era, as well as their supporters and detractors. Cervantes helps us understand them on their own terms and shows us how their achievements still have much to tell us in our increasingly post-nationalist world.


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A sweeping, authoritative history that aims to deepen our understanding of the campaigns and conquests that propelled a small European kingdom to become one of the greatest empires in the world Over the few short decades that followed Christopher Columbus's first landing in the Caribbean in 1492, Spain conquered the two most formidable civilizations of the Americas: the Azt A sweeping, authoritative history that aims to deepen our understanding of the campaigns and conquests that propelled a small European kingdom to become one of the greatest empires in the world Over the few short decades that followed Christopher Columbus's first landing in the Caribbean in 1492, Spain conquered the two most formidable civilizations of the Americas: the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, and the other explorers and soldiers that took part in these expeditions dedicated their lives to seeking political and religious glory, helping to build an empire unlike any the world had ever seen. Centuries later, two dominant narratives about these conquests have prevailed--one of the romance and exoticism of adventure, the other of cruelty and exploitation of innocent people at the service of politics and religious bigotry. In The Conquistadors, Mexican historian Fernando Cervantes--himself a descendent of one of the conquistadors--tells the complete story of the conquests while steering a middle course between these two viewpoints. He argues that, while the conquistadors had undeniable faults, the tendency to condemn them tells us more about our modern sense of shame than it does about their original intentions. Drawing upon previously untapped primary sources that include diaries, letters, chronicles, and polemical treatises, Cervantes reframes the story of the Spanish conquest of the New World, examining the late medieval world from which the conquistadors emerged. At the heart of the story are the conquistadors themselves, whose epic ambitions and moral contradictions defined an era, as well as their supporters and detractors. Cervantes helps us understand them on their own terms and shows us how their achievements still have much to tell us in our increasingly post-nationalist world.

30 review for Conquistadores: A New History of Spanish Discovery and Conquest

  1. 4 out of 5

    Geourska

    I was surprised to learn that this book had such good reviews on GoodReads because, quite frankly, I found the book to be quite a slog. Having recently moved to South America, I was looking forward to learning some more about its history. This would not be a book that I recommend. I have two main complaints. My first is that the book is written in a rather dry style, filled with references to names and concepts that I am unfamiliar with. I have no idea who the intended audience of the book is, bu I was surprised to learn that this book had such good reviews on GoodReads because, quite frankly, I found the book to be quite a slog. Having recently moved to South America, I was looking forward to learning some more about its history. This would not be a book that I recommend. I have two main complaints. My first is that the book is written in a rather dry style, filled with references to names and concepts that I am unfamiliar with. I have no idea who the intended audience of the book is, but it clearly was not me. In fact, I think this book is an excellent example of why reading is not merely the act of decoding words also the act of placing knowledge into an existing schema. There were many times in which I could read all the individual words in a sentence but was unable to make any sense of what was being discussed since I am not familiar with 16th-century Spanish politics and religious history. Take, for example, the following sentence, which is a part of a discussion of the religious order that was chosen to convert the Tainos in Hispaniola. "Erasmus's secret was the deceptively simple way in which he managed to fuse into a single intellectual tradition the main conflicting currents of the late fifteenth century: the Netherlands piety of the devotio moderna and the Windisheim reform movement, Florentine Neo-Platonism, humanistic textual scholarship, and the various anxieties of what we might anachronistically call a growing 'middle class' increasingly aware of its needs and its potential for social action.' (pg. 108) Maybe this sentence means something to someone with a background in the topic, but it meant absolutely nothing to me. The endless references to abstract concepts that are unlikely to be familiar to the general reader greatly detracted from the book. At times, Cervantes was able to make the topic come alive, but unfortunately, such instances were few and far between. My second complaint about the book is that it claims to give a more balanced and reframed view of the actions of the conquistadors. One of the main arguments seems to be that we are judging the conquistadors' actions by modern standards and that when one considers the structure of government that they put into place (which lasted for over 300 years), their conquest and Spain's subsequent development of the New World should be considered an accomplishment. Spain, he argues, did not just exploit its 'colonies' (Cervantes argues that technically, these were not really colonies), but helped the region develop into a thriving, commercially prosperous kingdom, that was home to countless intellectuals. He also goes on to say that the conquistadors should not be blamed for the current problems in South America. To me, this seems to be an argument of the ends justifying the means. Given that the conquistadors were rightfully criticized for their actions at the time, it is clear that even by the standards of their time, the conquistadors behaved despicably. Secondly, while New Spain might have had a flourishing culture, we will never know what the Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs would have achieved had their cultures not been destroyed by the Spanish. At the end of the day, the death of thousands of people and wanton destruction of culture in the name of greed can never be justified. This brings me to one last related point, and this regards Cervantes' choice of language when describing the fate of the Inca queen, Cura Ocllo. Cervantes states, 'Whether [Francisco] and his secretary, Antonio Picado, actually managed to have sexual intercourse with her, as was later alleged, we will never know. But her execution reached levels of cruelty that shocked even the most heartless conquistadores.' (pg. 310). Let us be clear, the correct word to use here would be rape. Stating that Francisco and Picado may have had sexual intercourse makes it sound like a somewhat consensual act, which it clearly would not have been. I am also not sure what the speculation about whether or not they were successful in raping her adds much either. But language has power and not calling a crime by its name only serves to minimize the crime.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lou (nonfiction fiend)

    A sweeping, authoritative history that aims to deepen our understanding of the campaigns and conquests that propelled a small European kingdom to become one of the greatest empires in the world. Over the few short decades that followed Christopher Columbus's first landing in the Caribbean in 1492, Spain conquered the two most formidable civilizations of the Americas: the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, and the other explorers and soldiers that took part A sweeping, authoritative history that aims to deepen our understanding of the campaigns and conquests that propelled a small European kingdom to become one of the greatest empires in the world. Over the few short decades that followed Christopher Columbus's first landing in the Caribbean in 1492, Spain conquered the two most formidable civilizations of the Americas: the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, and the other explorers and soldiers that took part in these expeditions dedicated their lives to seeking political and religious glory, helping to build an empire unlike any the world had ever seen. Centuries later, two dominant narratives about these conquests have prevailed--one of the romance and exoticism of adventure, the other of cruelty and exploitation of innocent people at the service of politics and religious bigotry. In The Conquistadors, Mexican historian Fernando Cervantes--himself a descendent of one of the conquistadors--tells the complete story of the conquests while steering a middle course between these two viewpoints. He argues that, while the conquistadors had undeniable faults, the tendency to condemn them tells us more about our modern sense of shame than it does about their original intentions. Drawing upon previously untapped primary sources that include diaries, letters, chronicles, and polemical treatises, Cervantes reframes the story of the Spanish conquest of the New World, examining the late medieval world from which the conquistadors emerged. At the heart of the story are the conquistadors themselves, whose epic ambitions and moral contradictions defined an era, as well as their supporters and detractors. Cervantes helps us understand them on their own terms and shows us how their achievements still have much to tell us in our increasingly post-nationalist world. This is a fascinating and informative deep dive into a much-misunderstood history. Written in an accessible and fluid style, it is an extensive, powerful and no-holds-barred account of the Spanish conquests of old. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Allen Lane for an ARC.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Starts out very well, with a wonderful back-to-the-future bit from 1490: Tirant lo Blanch , a "chivalric romance" novel first published in 1490 (this is the book mentioned in "Don Quixote" as "the best book in the world") was tremendously popular then, evidence that reading for leisure was already widespread in Europe in the late 15th century. The custom of the time was to read the book aloud to others (not least because printing was not yet widespread). Fast-forward to the 21st century, when m Starts out very well, with a wonderful back-to-the-future bit from 1490: Tirant lo Blanch , a "chivalric romance" novel first published in 1490 (this is the book mentioned in "Don Quixote" as "the best book in the world") was tremendously popular then, evidence that reading for leisure was already widespread in Europe in the late 15th century. The custom of the time was to read the book aloud to others (not least because printing was not yet widespread). Fast-forward to the 21st century, when many 'readers' also prefer to listen to audio-books! The more things change..... I have several pages of notes, and will try to get them in some sort of order and write a fuller review in the next few days. I'm way behind, on reviews and everything else. Don't hold your breath. Important book, on a topic that's interested me for decades. NPR gave it a rave review, the best I saw online: https://www.npr.org/2021/09/15/103474... Start with that one, is my advice. Excerpt: "When Cortés departed on another expedition, he temporarily left Tenochtitlan in the hands of his deputy, Pedro de Alvarado, who had "none of Cortés's political skills, and all the prickly honour of a chivalrous knight," Cervantes writes. Finding themselves surrounded by dancers during a festival, Alvarado and his men suspected an attack was imminent and decided to strike first. In the ensuing massacre, wrote one informant, "The blood ... ran like water, it spread out slippery and a foul odor rose from it." The war that followed ultimately left the great city of Tenochtitlan in ruins. A Mexican-born historian who now teaches at the University of Bristol in England, Cervantes marshals an enormous array of primary and secondary sources to tell the story of the decades that followed Christopher Columbus' arrival on an island off what is now Cuba, in "three cramped, ill-equipped vessels, with a combined capacity of ninety men." . . . There's a depressing sameness to the way Cervantes tells the story. The indigenous populations sometimes fought back, often with great skill and courage, and could themselves be brutal to their enemies. But they were ultimately no match for the Europeans, who came in greater and greater numbers and carried artillery that seemed to give them God-like powers. And what to make of the horses they rode? "...To a group of people who had never seen such animals — and who saw them mounted by men who seemed inseparably fused to them — it was a terrifying experience." Cervantes writes. .... Many people were appalled when Pizarro, eager to get back to gold-hunting, decided to execute the imprisoned Incan emperor Atawallpa to neutralize him as a threat. In 1526, the Council of the Indies complained that too many Spaniards were treating the natives "far worse than if they were slaves" (who were already being brought into the New World), Cervantes writes. They had caused the deaths of "a large number of the said Indians on a scale that has turned many of the islands and large swathes of the mainland into veritable wastelands, bereft of population." There were other considerations: How could you convert the natives to Christianity if they were dead? The past is a different country. VERY different, at the time of the Conquest. Very good book: 4.5 stars, rounded down after reading some of the well-argued negative reviews here. Even after a half-millenium, the Conquest generates considerable revulsion, and rightly so.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eduardo

    I would first like to note that I chose 1 star because of the incredible undertaking in terms of the gathering of information and historical reconstruction of the political and religious climates of the time. The work is incredibly well researched and does incorporate a myriad of accounts for the descriptions of pivotal events in the “conquest” of the Americas. However, I feel the book has glaring problems with respect to the idea that these events can be described with such banal ideas. This “c I would first like to note that I chose 1 star because of the incredible undertaking in terms of the gathering of information and historical reconstruction of the political and religious climates of the time. The work is incredibly well researched and does incorporate a myriad of accounts for the descriptions of pivotal events in the “conquest” of the Americas. However, I feel the book has glaring problems with respect to the idea that these events can be described with such banal ideas. This “conquest” should be rightfully described as what it was, a genocide. A systematic erasure and enslavement of indigenous peoples, masquerading as adventurous conquest. As is often the case when relying on the many histories written by those who held power during atrocities, Cervantes mythologizes and laments the role of conquistadores in the genocide of the Indigenous Americans. While this sentiment is woven throughout the narrative created for the “Conquistadores.” Chapter 16 (The End of an Era), points to the acceptance that “expeditions of conquest” in the New World while difficult to justify, ultimately persisted as a means to finance the endeavors of European monarchs. Meanwhile, those who initiated the "conquest" of the New World (the genocide of the Americas) met ignoble ends. This implies that the Conquistadores, described by Cervantes at the close of Chapter 16, are “men who despite their moral failings succeeded more or less through their own agency, in transforming Spanish and European conceptions of the world”, were victims in their own right. With that in mind, the narrative created can at times be difficult to parse when describing the shifting of immense geopolitical events between both peoples and cultures across half a century. Though, as the title implies the historical narrative created is that of the men who initiated a genocide. As such, the civilizations, and millions of inhabitants therein that ultimately lost their lives to the Steel Blades of Spanish conquest, are but mere set pieces in the story of adventurous “Conquistadores” who braved the New World. The Indigenous peoples of the Americans, and throughout the world, are today still feeling the effects of this genocide as we piece together cultures cut from us by the "civilization" of European steel. We are still sifting through the ashes for the histories burned in the romanticized fires of conquest, exploration, salvation, and progress. We should not be relegated to set pieces in the histories of nations that were built on the decimation and enslavement of our people.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Aguilar

    While I don't agree with everything mentioned here, there was a lot to sit and think on. One such thing is how some indigenous groups adopted Christianity into their beliefs in a way that transformed the result in something different. Or how the Crown seemed as horrified, in most cases, by the violence and bloodshed. Or how the conquests stemmed-- at least more than I previously understood-- from a religious intent. I don't agree that we should look at conquistadores through a more 'sympathetic' While I don't agree with everything mentioned here, there was a lot to sit and think on. One such thing is how some indigenous groups adopted Christianity into their beliefs in a way that transformed the result in something different. Or how the Crown seemed as horrified, in most cases, by the violence and bloodshed. Or how the conquests stemmed-- at least more than I previously understood-- from a religious intent. I don't agree that we should look at conquistadores through a more 'sympathetic' light. Not only because of the horrors the Conquistadores did, but also because even in this book, Cervantes reveals when certain Conquistadores begun to be driven by riches more than religion. But I do believe context of the time can help us understand how it happened. The main thing I did not like is that the organization made it difficult to follow along with people who played a part in multiple events. I understand that dividing the book by events helped to maintain some framework but with everything being interconnected, I would have appreciated a little more 'recaps' to orient myself. (Mostly from the first half.) Tangentially, while I understand why this book was not presented chronologically, it was off-putting for time to feel so fluid. The book ends with events from around 1535 but prior to that, had been several decades later.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    This is history at its best. A thorough account of men who are deeply misunderstood and condemned by smug modern moralism. To most people, the conquistadors are essentially aliens from a strange world and little effort is made to understand them in their own context. This book is the antidote. True history should lead us to greater understanding of the past and why people did what they did.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Renée Vink

    Why only two stars, though the book was quite readable and contained interesting information? In the first place, it seemed to me the argument was self-defeating. It is an attempt to counter the "Black Legend" (the author doesn't use this term, but it is obviously what he is thinking of) by showing the conquistadores as men of their times, functioning in a context of of late medieval culture and religion. Yet despite some omissions (see below) it becomes quite clear that their contemporaries - n Why only two stars, though the book was quite readable and contained interesting information? In the first place, it seemed to me the argument was self-defeating. It is an attempt to counter the "Black Legend" (the author doesn't use this term, but it is obviously what he is thinking of) by showing the conquistadores as men of their times, functioning in a context of of late medieval culture and religion. Yet despite some omissions (see below) it becomes quite clear that their contemporaries - not just the enemies of Spain but also Spanish rulers and above all clerics, were their first and sometimes worst critics. No amount of nuancing the exaggerations of Bartolomé de las Casas is able to hide this. The way the conquistadores were quickly sidelined and sometimes punished harshly, speaks volumes: once they had done their bosses' dirty work for them, they were swept under the rug as embarrassments. It was later generations that raised statues for them, even after the liberation of Hispanic America, so it's not as if they lack admiration. The statues are all over the place in Spain and the Americas; Cortés got one as late as 1982. Of course, last year there was this wave of statue-disgracing that above all targeted colonizers, and the year before that the President of Mexico demanded apologies from Spain and the Pope, etcetera, so at least the timing of the book is understandable. Then there were the omissions. William of Orange's "Apology" is identified as the culmination of anti-Spanish propaganda by rebellious Protestants and enemy nations, but the author omits to mention that William wrote it after the Spanish King had put a price on his head. Manco Inca rose against the conquistadores who made him Sapa Inca, but the reader isn't told he did so after the youngest Pizarro brothers put him in chains, pissed on him and raped his wife. That Manco was murdered by two conquistadores he had welcomed as guests is also omitted; the story of the conquest of Peru stops with the murder of Francisco Pizarro. Why not spend a few paragraphs on the end of Manco's rebellion, which now remains dangling in mid-air? Omissions like these come across as rather manipulative. Outright ridiculous is the claim that the late medieval world "saw the stamping out of the last vestiges of Muslim rule on continental Europe". Constantinople and the Balkans beg to disagree. A peculiar slip-up from a professional historian, but maybe we should show some understanding for a Mexican teaching in a country that has turned its back on continental Europe? Being Dutch, pro-William of Orange, and ashamed of the colonizing thugs of my own nation, I decided against it. So my 2,5 stars ended up as 2.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I was drawn to read Fernando Cervantes new history of the early Spanish conquistadores because, other than Moctezuma, Christopher Columbus and Hernan Cortes, I knew very little about the leading men involved in this period of central American history. It turns out that I didn't know much about the three I could already name either! Cervantes details the years from just prior to Columbus' famous first voyage in 1492 through the reign of Empero See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I was drawn to read Fernando Cervantes new history of the early Spanish conquistadores because, other than Moctezuma, Christopher Columbus and Hernan Cortes, I knew very little about the leading men involved in this period of central American history. It turns out that I didn't know much about the three I could already name either! Cervantes details the years from just prior to Columbus' famous first voyage in 1492 through the reign of Emperor Charles V. I liked that he tried to explain how the political and religious motivations determined actions on both sides and he is obviously very well versed in the the contemporary documentation of the time. From the synopsis I had thought more original letters and diaries would be quoted whereas in fact they are more of simply referred to or described. I didn't feel that Conquistadores actually challenged my perceptions of the conquistadores though. I expected some ground-breaking insights, whereas what I actually felt I read was almost, at times, an apology for their behaviour. That the Spanish expeditions were driven in seemingly pretty equal parts by blind faith and greed isn't exactly news and sums up most imperial expansions throughout human history! What most disappointed me about this book though is how dryly Cervantes renders such a potentially fascinating an exciting period of history. As I found with the biography Francis I by Leonie Frieda, an examination of the French king's life through roughly the same period, I need more to engage with history than just lists of names engaging in endless battles. There are moments in Conquistadores where suddenly a person or scene sprang vividly to life for me, but unfortunately these were few and far between so, while this book is undoubtedly brilliantly researched and very informative, I found it a real slog to actually read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mike Stewart

    Well researched, scholarly but somewhat dry history of the Spanish conquest of the new world. I wouldn't call Cervantes exactly an apologist for the conquistadors and Spanish rule, but he does argue (I think) that our judgments should be mitigated by understanding their and their victims' world views and motives. At times I found it difficult to figure out exactly what point he was making, e.g. his discourse on the painter Diego Velazquez in his final chapter. Then again, this may have been due Well researched, scholarly but somewhat dry history of the Spanish conquest of the new world. I wouldn't call Cervantes exactly an apologist for the conquistadors and Spanish rule, but he does argue (I think) that our judgments should be mitigated by understanding their and their victims' world views and motives. At times I found it difficult to figure out exactly what point he was making, e.g. his discourse on the painter Diego Velazquez in his final chapter. Then again, this may have been due to my own limitations. I was also mildly irritated that Coronado is only mentioned once and then in passing - perhaps his expedition was beyond the scope of Cervantes' book but I don't see how - and his account of de Soto's expedition; it ends with de Soto's death but says nothing about what became of the survivors.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andres Castillo

    Highly readable and full of detail Also, a much needed reflection on the balance on the moral contradictions of the conquistadors that will probably cause some (very welcome as I see it) heated discussions. Which ever position one might hold regarding these hot topics, I think people will find this to be a fascinating read

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alex Anderson

    Like the topics of dinosaurs, WWII, the Age of Empire or the history of Nazi Germany, the conquests of the Conquistadores and their exploits in the Americas have always, since a child, held a dark and peculiar fascination for me. It is easy to see the total subjugation of indigenous peoples in general and particularly of the Aztecs by Hernando Cortez or the decimation of Incas by Francisco Pizarro, in light of more modern-day war crimes such as the Balkans, Congo, Armenian massacres or even the s Like the topics of dinosaurs, WWII, the Age of Empire or the history of Nazi Germany, the conquests of the Conquistadores and their exploits in the Americas have always, since a child, held a dark and peculiar fascination for me. It is easy to see the total subjugation of indigenous peoples in general and particularly of the Aztecs by Hernando Cortez or the decimation of Incas by Francisco Pizarro, in light of more modern-day war crimes such as the Balkans, Congo, Armenian massacres or even the slaughter of the Jews during the holecaust. But this shortsighted comparison, while being emotionally cathartic, doesn’t allow for historical perspective nor hold up under any reasonably objective form of critical scrutiny. Cunning, guts, malfeasance, differences in the overal purpose of battle & warfare, superior technology, superstition and an astonishing single-mindedness and sense of purpose, along with the inadvertent utility of chemical warfare (probably more devastating than any other tool of war in use at the time, carried over with the invaders as it was in the form of deadly viruses that the indigineous peoples had absolutely no defence against) and the Devil’s Own Luck served as apocalyptical a collection of macabre tools of subjugation, death, destruction and genicidal obliteration as any modern nuclear device ever might hope to be. Hindsight of modern historical perspective and political correctness aside, there always seemed to me to be something inherently missing in the accounts that I had previously read concerning this subject, some part of the puzzle of truth. In Conquistadores, Cervantes contributes in no small measure to filling this gap in knowledge with an accounting of the political and moral circumstances running both alongside and counter to the classic view of the whole concept of historical conceits and imperatives imbuing the materials so far made available to us concerning the Conquest of the Americas. The author’s main thesis is that the whole of the Conquista ought to be tracked not only by the greed for gold and racial bloodlust but additionally through the lens of the zealously religious world outlook of the Spaniards and the Holy Roman Emporer (it covers the Spanish Conquista, the Portuguese Conquistadors are entirely another matter, not covered here). There are a few parts of the book which are overly pedantic or that might not seem relevant, the uninterested reader can easily skip this material. But, for the reader who is curious about the subject and interested in adding a little more depth, substance and perspective to his historical wonderings, your time spent here pays off.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) This work looks at an aspect of history that has undergone more than its fair share of reassessments with the times. The Spanish "conquest" of the "New" World is a topic filled with controversy, a fair amount of it deserved. However, there is always more to the story, and that is what Cervantes looks to offer. Starting with the voyages of Columbus, this work follows the rise and fall of the Conquistadors as they came to the New World. They were brutal in their methods, especially Piz (Audiobook) This work looks at an aspect of history that has undergone more than its fair share of reassessments with the times. The Spanish "conquest" of the "New" World is a topic filled with controversy, a fair amount of it deserved. However, there is always more to the story, and that is what Cervantes looks to offer. Starting with the voyages of Columbus, this work follows the rise and fall of the Conquistadors as they came to the New World. They were brutal in their methods, especially Pizarro and Cortes, but they were not just mindless men driven by lust and greed. They were motivated by religious and adventurous motives to advance Spain and their fortunes. There was a significant impact from the social, political and religious environment in Spain during that time. One thing that doesn't make the grade-school textbooks is that the stories of the exploits and actions of the Conquistadors in the New World, for all the wealth they brought in, did not generate positive headlines. There was much soul-searching and questioning of the morality of their actions in Spain, and condemnation followed their names as much as praise. It is a debate that is not just limited to the "revisionist" history of today. Overall, the work does not take a positive view of these men, but it does not regulate them to status of cartoon villains. They did what they did and made their impact. They were men of their time, but their acts should not be emulated. The rating is the same for audiobook and/or e-copy/hard copy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Frank Kelly

    There is, quite frankly, a lot of myth and historical mayhem out there about the discovery of the "New World" and the role of Spain's "Conquistiadores." In Fernando Cervantes's riveting new book, we get a fresh, unbiased, and deeply researched historical overview of these brave, ambitious, at times greedy, and more often than not bloody explorers. From Pizarro to Cortés to the rest of them, Cervantes drills in what drove them to risk their lives on the high seas and in the jungles of Latin Ameri There is, quite frankly, a lot of myth and historical mayhem out there about the discovery of the "New World" and the role of Spain's "Conquistiadores." In Fernando Cervantes's riveting new book, we get a fresh, unbiased, and deeply researched historical overview of these brave, ambitious, at times greedy, and more often than not bloody explorers. From Pizarro to Cortés to the rest of them, Cervantes drills in what drove them to risk their lives on the high seas and in the jungles of Latin America. True, the search for gold was the primary factor. And with it came a great price - particularly for the native Americas who died by the thousands from diseases brought by the conquistadores if not at the bloody tip of their swords. What is particularly valuable about Cervante's book is his superb overview of what was going on in Europe at the time, the wars and dynastic wars, the rise of Martin Luther, and the never-ending battles with the Moors. All of which directly impacted Spain's spending and focus on the New World - indeed, in many ways tremendously exasperating the desperate search for gold and silver in the New World to fund those very wars back home. I am happy to have this book on my shelves as I know I will find it a tremendous resource in the years to come as I grow my business in Latin America and need to be refreshed on the history of that time, which continues to define in so many ways the way of life in the region today.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Poth

    Complete, comprehensive review of the few short decades of the 16th century when the Spanish completely dominated (destroyed?) what is now Mexico, Central America, and Western South America. Very thorough.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    This is solid but not fantastic and it is somewhat apologetic, by both omission and commission. I've read one or two other recent books about the Triple Alliance headed by the Mexica, aka the "Aztecs," so not much about Cortes was new to me. I knew that much of the traditional Spanish claims about Moctezuma's actions and their "whys" were bogus. Cervantes only reinforces that, as well as much of what I'd learned in the last several years about other tribes of today's Central Mexico being ready to This is solid but not fantastic and it is somewhat apologetic, by both omission and commission. I've read one or two other recent books about the Triple Alliance headed by the Mexica, aka the "Aztecs," so not much about Cortes was new to me. I knew that much of the traditional Spanish claims about Moctezuma's actions and their "whys" were bogus. Cervantes only reinforces that, as well as much of what I'd learned in the last several years about other tribes of today's Central Mexico being ready to revolt, but on their own terms with their own goals. The main part new to me was the details of Cortes having to leave Tenochtitlan after he learned about a new fleet on the coast, from Cuba, headed by "frenemy" Panfilo de Narvaez. It was an "unfortunate gamble" per Cervantes. It was also, from Cortes' POV, a necessary one. Would he have done better handling the situation back in Tenochtitlan than did Pedro de Alvarado? Debatable. The Spanish were under pressure and edgy from an increasingly long "house arrest" of sorts; any commander would have had trouble with his troops. I learned more about the conquest of Peru, both the military details and the bloodthirsty mindset of the Pizarro brothers, all of whom made Cortes a model of probity. Cervantes on the military, and fairly much on the social side, is good about the post-Columbus pre-Cortes conquest of the Caribbean islands. He's also good about Spain at this time, trying to transition from separate countries to a unified one, but also in both Castile and Aragon, trying to transition from a feudal society to something more modern, with Isabel and Fernando depending first on townsmen then on "new nobility" created since the Castilian civil war about 150 years ago. This, plus a take on Castilian law that allowed officers of the Crown to "obey but not implement" laws, is part of what gave Charles V (and Isabel and Fernando already) grief in the new world. Related? Part of why they needed money is that Castile, especially, had had something equivalent to the "jizya" of Islamic states, but when Jews and Muslims were expelled, there was nobody to levy this tax against. Also "interestingly," Cervantes doesn't mention that both monarchs themselves may have had converso blood in their family trees. No, really; bits of hints with Isabel and more with Fernando. On the conquests, weirdly, Cervantes includes de Soto in Florida but not Coronado in New Mexico. The latter had more influence on Mexican history and much more on US history. In between the conquests, Cervantes talks about the Dominicans who lead attempts at conversion in the early days, and of course, las Casas. The last chapter, especially, is "apologetic." It's true that Spain wasn't a modern nation-state, and the eventual vice-royalties in the New World certainly weren't. And, having seen Pueblo churches in New Mexico, I understand friars accepting, in the early years, "surface conversions," or "incorporations" rather than conversions. Cervantes explains this well. And, the English were no bed of roses in dealing with American Indians or importing Black slaves. Nonetheless, it's not just "judging in modern terms" to critique the conquistadors' New World more than Cervantes does. "Interestingly," he mentions some problems with the early installments of the encomienda system in the Caribbean, but even there, only the secular side of it, and the religious side not at all. On the mainland, none of it's mentioned. But, as someone quite familiar with New Mexico's Pueblo Revolt, I know the priests were hated as much as the secular officials for how they exploited the encomienda sytem. On the flip side (though it would be hard to ignore it) he notes the actuality of when stories about things like Our Lady of Guadalupe arose vs legends. And, it should be added there's nothing inherently wrong with apologetics; it's always whether they're defensible or not. Cervantes' Wikipedia stub says he's a lay Dominican. Maybe that's why he didn't go into more detail. Ideally, I'd 3.5 star this. But, no half stars, so 3 it is.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Hoffman

    Great book. It's split into three main parts, which deal first with the initial Spanish discoveries and settlements under Columbus, then with Cortés and the conquest of Mexico, and finally Pizarro's defeat of the Incas in Peru and Ecuador (Plus Hernando DeSoto, who was involved in Pizarro's expeditions but later split off to explore what became the Southeastern U.S.). A primary concern throughout is to understand the motivations of the conquistadores and the cultural context that drove them. So Great book. It's split into three main parts, which deal first with the initial Spanish discoveries and settlements under Columbus, then with Cortés and the conquest of Mexico, and finally Pizarro's defeat of the Incas in Peru and Ecuador (Plus Hernando DeSoto, who was involved in Pizarro's expeditions but later split off to explore what became the Southeastern U.S.). A primary concern throughout is to understand the motivations of the conquistadores and the cultural context that drove them. So in the intro, Cervantes says this: "It is important that we do not reduce the richly complex world of the conquistadores to a sweeping caricature. Our view of their many atrocities needs to be grounded in historical context. Their world was not the cruel, backward, obscurantist and bigoted myth of legend, but the late-medieval crusading world which saw the stamping out of the last vestiges of Muslim rule on continental Europe." Cervantes doesn't hide the fact that for all the atrocities certain conquistadores committed, the American natives could be just as barbaric, and were not necessarily unified with each other. The Spanish were not a monolith either: Ferdinand and Isabella, as well as their successor Charles V, the King of Spain and Habsburg Emperor, were often appalled at what the Spanish adventurers were doing and sought by laws and decrees to reign them in. Priests and bishops also often heroically sought to protect the natives from poor treatment. Basically, everyone involved in the Spanish conquests was human, some wicked, some good, all with varying interests. It was fascinating also to read about the political and theological debates that took place regarding everything Spain was doing in the New World. I'll note finally one aspect of Columbus' exploration and the subsequent conquests that comes out in this book, often not realized. Columbus finally got the sponsorship he needed in his attempt to sail west to Asia because he wanted eventually to be able to use the proceeds and the new route to retake Jerusalem for Christendom. In other words, to fulfill the dream of the Crusaders. From that angle, the discovery of the New World and its initial settlement could really be seen as part of the larger story of the Crusades rather than as a new "Age of Exploration." That would bring a whole different perspective to it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Gomes

    A well written, concise history from the viewpoint of the Spanish State on the developments and discoveries of the several groups of conquistadores who traveled on expeditions to the Americas from 1400's to 1500's. It lays out the discrepencies between what was correct for the monarchy and what was actually taking place on the other side of the Atlantic. It would appear that the distance created unexpected problems between the two. However, having said that, the need for plunder was essential to A well written, concise history from the viewpoint of the Spanish State on the developments and discoveries of the several groups of conquistadores who traveled on expeditions to the Americas from 1400's to 1500's. It lays out the discrepencies between what was correct for the monarchy and what was actually taking place on the other side of the Atlantic. It would appear that the distance created unexpected problems between the two. However, having said that, the need for plunder was essential to the Spanish State to continue its affairs within the empire, and gold, silver, gemstones and other valuable artifacts were sent by many ships to the monarchys utter pleasure. The treatment of the indiginous population is glossed over somewhat though it is made clear by several examples, of the amount of slaughter upon these people took place in the name of subjugation to the crown and the cross. Although it seems at times as an apology for the behaviour of the conquistadores and for Spains part in it; it also lays out that there was a sense of seperate rules and order in the Americas quite different than that which the King continually insisted upon. Again the distance created a vast rift in how that was instituted and in most cases, the Indian populations suffered not only from diseases brought over by the Spaniards but also by the destruction of their culture, cities, and the continual pillaging of sacred sites of the gold, silver, jewels. The burning of libraries with untold damage to the full account of the histories of these people. And for that we still have a very limited understanding of these great cultures which existed for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. It cannot be stressed that this book is a great work of scholarly importance for its revealing the mindset of the Spanish place in medieval European history. For a further in depth analysis of the plight of the indigenous population as seen from their side of the history; other sources must be sought. This book is a must read to anyone seeking to understand this very important turning point in European expansion into the New World.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emi

    This was Best Book I read all year: completely gripping and well-researched. I was completely hooked from the fist page and unfortunately read it so quickly that I didn't have time to let the information settle, so I will definitely come back to this book in the future and re-read. I have always found this part of history absolutely fascinating, and I think the author does a brilliant job in bringing that complex history to life in a way that avoids the typical stereotypes. This book is absolute This was Best Book I read all year: completely gripping and well-researched. I was completely hooked from the fist page and unfortunately read it so quickly that I didn't have time to let the information settle, so I will definitely come back to this book in the future and re-read. I have always found this part of history absolutely fascinating, and I think the author does a brilliant job in bringing that complex history to life in a way that avoids the typical stereotypes. This book is absolutely not just a list of historical events: instead the author writes in a way that places the events and the conquistadors' actions within the religious, social, economic and cultural contexts that they occurred. The pace is quite fast, and the book covers a large span of time, with chapters dedicated to major events such as the conquests of Mexico and Peru. I feel that you get a major impression of significant conquistadors involved in the events, such as Cortes and Pizarro, as well as Moctezumo and Manquo Inca, and even figures such as Charles V and mendicant Friars like las Casas are described in some detail. Despite covering a large timespan, the book is also rich in detail, using a lot of eyewitness accounts, geographical and archeological descriptions and a small selection of well-chosen photos.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Walt

    Finally, someone has the courage to challenge the romantic view of the Conquistadors! Actually, after the introduction, Cervantes provides something of a neutral viewpoint between Romantic explorers and genocidal villains. The introduction says he will challenge the view point that these men were heroes and daring adventurers. And he does. At the same time, he puts their actions in context. The 16th Century was far more tumultuous than 21st Century America. So viewing anything from a modern lens Finally, someone has the courage to challenge the romantic view of the Conquistadors! Actually, after the introduction, Cervantes provides something of a neutral viewpoint between Romantic explorers and genocidal villains. The introduction says he will challenge the view point that these men were heroes and daring adventurers. And he does. At the same time, he puts their actions in context. The 16th Century was far more tumultuous than 21st Century America. So viewing anything from a modern lens is skewed. Cervantes focuses on the most famous Conquistadors - Cortez and Pizarro. He does include others who had meaningful interactions with them - Alvarado, Albergo, and DeSoto; but the crux of the book is on Cortez and Pizarro. He includes Columbus in there as well because he makes a solid case for claiming that Columbus' treatment of the Taino Indians set the precedent for future conquests. For much of the book it is difficult to identify Cervantes' sources. The book is heavily cited. There are nearly 100 pages of endnotes. But the vast majority seem to be from secondary works. Yes, he does include a lot of archival sources; but it is not clear in the bulk of the text where he is drawing information and presenting new information. He presents Columbus like a whiny bitch. Columbus was rewarded for his discoveries with land and titles; but clearly was not up to the task of administering anything. He repeatedly travels to and from Spain pleading his side of any issue. His patrons arranged an investigator to determine why the colonists were not obeying their governor - Columbus....And the investigator arrested Columbus. There are references to a trial and conviction; but the details were lost. Cervantes presents the arrest of Columbus as a new wrinkle in the story of exploration and conquest. However, he is much more apologetic in his handling of Cortez and Pizarro. Cervantes sets the stage for his narrative by describing the militaristic culture of Castille, the plight of the poor Hidalgos - impoverished warriors with dim future prospects. The Conquistadors emerged from this social class - motivated by a strong desire to advance the social strata by becoming large landowners. The result was the explorations, conquests, and encomiendas that outrage modern Americans (and possibly the intelligencia of early modern Europe). Cervantes does not sugarcoat the Conquistadors. But her certainly emphasizes the horrors of the conquered. Most students are already aware the Aztecs and Incas sacrificed thousands of human beings to their gods and engaged in cannibalism. But the civil wars, torture, and violence of those cultures are detailed. Readers can see why other reviewers label Cervantes a genocide apologist. But he does not claim that the conquests were good. On the contrary, he points out where intellectual, political, and social leaders back in Spain wrung their hands over the situation. Similar to how Americans treated Native Americans for centuries, each expansion into native territory was followed by a gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair, and declarations that we would never do it again....wait....there's gold in them hills? The Spanish monarchs wanted and needed gold and silver. Charles V took a traveling exhibit with him while he visited his European holdings. It was this exhibit that inspired a race for the New World and the golden age of piracy. Cortez's first treasure fleet was captured by French pirates waiting for the ships. Cervantes goes into painful detail showing how there was considerable outcry against the conquistadors - at least in the upper levels of society. The picture he paints of the conquistadors is that they were brave and greedy warriors who were not in any mental position to administer large swaths of land that they conquered. The result is that so many of them died ignobly. DeSoto died exploring modern-day Arkansas. Pizarro was killed by disgruntled confederates. Almagro was killed by Pizarro's brothers. Cortez was one of the few who died wealthy. Although at the time of his death, he was dogged by numerous law suits by compatriots and creditors. One thing shines through is that the conquistadors were just as likely to fight each other as they were fighting the indigenous peoples. Their conquests far from Spain allowed them to assert a seemingly independent state (Cervantes calls them countries) where they could ignore commands from Spain with the bizarre - "I obey, but do not comply" catch mark that Cervantes attributes to them. This allows Cervantes to claim that the monarchs wanted a gentler approach to the conquests and conquered; but were thwarted by the poor knightly class of Spain. Overall, it is a fascinating book. Passages are thrilling. Cervantes outlines the conquests of Hispanola, Cuba, Darien, Mexico, and Peru. He offers some background on the exploration of Columbia as a means to show that the Spanish monarchs were reigning in the conquistadors. But he largely omits Coronado, Aguirre, and Legazpi (probably others). Large sections of the book pertain to religious matters. These are not clearly integrated into the text. A vague missionary group of Dominicans known as the Twelve traveled to Mexico and did....what? All that build up and theology and then...what? Parts of the writing are very academic to the point of distracting. The conclusion rambles on needlessly about the painter Diego Velazquez....why? It is hard to determine who is the intended audience, what Cervantes wants to accomplish or explain in the book, and how that relates to modern readers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Josh Liller

    Conquistadores covers roughly a half century from the explorations of Christopher Columbus through Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia. Columbus, Cortes, and Pizarro are the lead characters whose exploits cover the largest part of the book. This is not a subject I have read much about; I only know the broad strokes so I can't really compare it to other works on this subject. I picked it up from the new book shelf at my local library. Both those looking for this "new history" to b Conquistadores covers roughly a half century from the explorations of Christopher Columbus through Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia. Columbus, Cortes, and Pizarro are the lead characters whose exploits cover the largest part of the book. This is not a subject I have read much about; I only know the broad strokes so I can't really compare it to other works on this subject. I picked it up from the new book shelf at my local library. Both those looking for this "new history" to be a "people's history" where the author endless condemns the evil colonizers or a reactionary/apologist history that attempts to defend conquistadors as great heroes unfairly victimized by politically correct presentism will be bitterly disappointed by this book. Rather the author goes to great lengths to put the conquistadores in the context of their time. The influence of the Reconquista and other Spanish laws and customs, the tug and pull of European politics, and theological debates of the era are shown to influence both the actions and reactions. Many of the conquistadores' actions are shown to be controversial, if not outright condemned, during their own time. The petty divisions of the conquistadores are also covered, including Cortes having to pause his efforts against the Aztecs to deal with Narvaez and the conquest of the Incas devolving into not only into a Second Incan Civil War but also a civil war amongst the Spanish that leads to Pizarro being beaten to death by a group of disgruntled supporters of his rival. The role of Native American culture and politics in Spanish success is noted as the Spanish repeatedly exploit political strife (often with the willing support of disgruntled native factions) and wedge Christianity into pagan polytheistism. There's an obvious, if not quite explicitly stated farcical aspect to the Spanish conquest of Mexico involving placing a crucifix and statue of the Virgin Mary in native temples - "Your idolatry is the devil's work! Behold these symbols of our religion you must worship, which is totally not idolatry!" The author's critical eye cuts both ways, against the the self-serving exaggerations of Cortes but also against the perceived exaggerations of Las Casas. Columbus doesn't come off as a genocidal tyrant, but rather stubborn and delusional. Alvarado's conquest of Guatemala is criticized as being far less brilliant or effective that he is normally presented. I enjoyed reading about 90% of this book. In some places the author delved into theological debates which, while relevant to the topic, I found to be dull. The Incas was one of the parts I was less familiar with going into the book (especially compared to Columbus or Cortes). I found trying to read the names of people and places there to be rather difficult (Mexica names I have at least heard spoken enough to have some idea how to read correctly), as well as the events being a bit more complicated and tedious. Maps were good. There are some illustrations. Extensive footnotes, bibliography, and index. The author is an academic, but he makes a good effort trying to write for a general audience and the publisher is a mainstream press. I would ideally give this 3.5 stars, but I'll round up because I really like the author's approach to the subject. It was interesting and the writing is above average, though some parts that were a mild slog. Moderate recommendation.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    Good, but not as good as I hoped. This is history focuses on four main players, Columbus, Cortes, Pizzaro, and De Soto as well as their associated monarchs. I was hoping for some insight on what made the conquistadores so persistent, and so crazy. In several instances their greed is profoundly stupid given the situation, but it seems to be the thing that carries them along. I don't feel that I understand them much better than I did before. I was surprised to learn that Cortes was if not a lawyer Good, but not as good as I hoped. This is history focuses on four main players, Columbus, Cortes, Pizzaro, and De Soto as well as their associated monarchs. I was hoping for some insight on what made the conquistadores so persistent, and so crazy. In several instances their greed is profoundly stupid given the situation, but it seems to be the thing that carries them along. I don't feel that I understand them much better than I did before. I was surprised to learn that Cortes was if not a lawyer, a scholar of law and that he was making cogent legal arguments as to why he should be entitled to various positions and possessions in the new world. This is primarily a history of the conquistadores themselves, but Cervantes seems to give disease less credit than other historians. I have read other histories that give it a more prominent role the feels like a better fit with surrounding events. There were lots of indigenous Americans, and not that many Europeans. Europeans did have some technological advantages, but not enough to conquer two continents in a stand up fight. I had always read that it was European disease that followed in the wake of the initial conquest of the Aztec and the Inca that prevented those societies from reorganizing and pushing the Europeans out. I thought De Soto's wanderings in North America made a nice ending. He had been with Pizzaro in Peru, and so probably knew better than most how conquests were done, but still had a rough time. He was venturing into a completely different human and physical terrain and perhaps the lessons he learned in Peru hurt more than they helped? The North American longbows took some of his technical edge and probably scared the shit out of the troops. the passage about the first horse the Indians took down with a single arrow is rather chilling. The churchmen and other Europeans agitating for better treatment of the natives was somewhat surprising in its reach, but also feels like something insufficiently explored. Some of these advocates had been to the new world, but no one actually living and working in the Americas appears to have been putting this humane philosophy into practice.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kemp

    This turned out to be a hard review to write. I feel I took too little from this book. Not because it isn’t packed with information but, rather, my inability to process all I read. It is purported to be a new history yet I knew so little of the old that I struggled identify what was new and unique. What did I take from the book? Indiscriminate killing was widespread – whether by sword or sickness. I think the new history aspect is that more of the deaths were due to the diseases brought to the Ame This turned out to be a hard review to write. I feel I took too little from this book. Not because it isn’t packed with information but, rather, my inability to process all I read. It is purported to be a new history yet I knew so little of the old that I struggled identify what was new and unique. What did I take from the book? Indiscriminate killing was widespread – whether by sword or sickness. I think the new history aspect is that more of the deaths were due to the diseases brought to the Americas by the Spanish and that much of the killing were between indigenous tribes or factions. Hernan Cortes didn’t seem to be appreciated or trusted by leaders in Spain. He was often paid less than his assistants sent from Spain with instructions to report on his actions. Yet he was adept at twisting orders such that they supported what he wanted to do and appeased his constituents. Political rivalries were rife. Conflicts amongst conquistadors influenced decisions and actions – often to the detriment of the indigenous population. Spanish factions fought over land claims. The abundance of gold caused me to pause and consider why so little seems native to Europe. As the Spanish brought, literally, tons back I couldn’t help reflecting on this dichotomy. Maybe Europe’s gold was found and depleted long ago since today’s plethora of mineral wealth lies in Africa and South America. The book begins with Spain’s discovery of Hispaniola, Cuba, and the New World and continues with the conquests of Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. A few chapters cover the expeditions into the southern US – primarily Florida. Columbus and Cortes make up a large part of the book. The book was a challenge to read. The names of people and places were mostly unfamiliar to me. Place names were the early indigenous names that I didn’t know. Many of the explorers were new to me too. Some events were described in great detail but the writing didn’t create vivid images. For me, this was a long and slow read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt Stevens

    Audiobook. I enjoyed it very much. It was great for the author to push against the "Great Man of History" narrative and really embed the various assholes within the culture they were working in. The Spanish Conquest of Grenada has just happened and Ferdinand and Isabella were incredibly short on cash (gold). Columbus and the rest were products of their rulers need for Gold. I thought it was extremely interesting that Isabella repeatedly admonished the conquistadores to not enslave the indigenous Audiobook. I enjoyed it very much. It was great for the author to push against the "Great Man of History" narrative and really embed the various assholes within the culture they were working in. The Spanish Conquest of Grenada has just happened and Ferdinand and Isabella were incredibly short on cash (gold). Columbus and the rest were products of their rulers need for Gold. I thought it was extremely interesting that Isabella repeatedly admonished the conquistadores to not enslave the indigenous groups they encountered. To treat them at subjects of her crown. And yet, she never even fired any of them or really has any of them imprisoned; the pursuit of gold was too important. After the deaths of Ferdinand and Isabella, Charles V has the same issues (short on gold) in his pursuit of the Holy Roman Emperorage. Its also really apparent the racism and cultural elitism that the Spanish brought is shocking at times. If one Spanish died in a battle, 10-100 indigenous were tortured and murdered. I did have some additional thoughts about this. I link the leaders of the various expeditions that left Spain and conquered and murdered their way across the Americas to some various specific business leaders today. They were adaptable. They moved fast. They had very light relationship with rules, or societal norms, especially when they encountered individuals that were in their way or didn't agree with them. I think of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Two individuals that remind me very much of Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizzaro. They think rules are for breaking and push them until they are punished. Too often they haven't been. They think might (and money) is always right. What happens when we are able to get to Mars. Or, we invent faster than light ships and explore other worlds. We need to make sure that people like Bezos and Musk - people who lead by extracting value and stealing from others aren't the ones we look to.

  24. 5 out of 5

    D

    Conquistadores and their actions are often now remembered, and probably rightfully so, as cruel and unnecessarily violent. The plundering and destruction by the Spanish in the New World took place concurrently with the growing ubiquity, allowing the Spanish monarchy to be one of the first, and perhaps most deserving, victim of propagandist publishing. This rampant spread of political and cultural propaganda set the stage for centuries of ridicule towards the Spanish monarchy and it’s agents in t Conquistadores and their actions are often now remembered, and probably rightfully so, as cruel and unnecessarily violent. The plundering and destruction by the Spanish in the New World took place concurrently with the growing ubiquity, allowing the Spanish monarchy to be one of the first, and perhaps most deserving, victim of propagandist publishing. This rampant spread of political and cultural propaganda set the stage for centuries of ridicule towards the Spanish monarchy and it’s agents in the new world. While this ridicule is justified when examined through modern standards of morality, the Spanish colonization of The New World is often not viewed within the context of the world in which the events (read atrocities) took place. This book seeks to place the actions and motives of the once revered, now besmirched conquistadores in a historical setting which is more accurate than both the glorification and demonization they have typically been examined in. It is important to note that Cervantes seeks not to justify the unjustifiable, but rather to recognize the religious and political histories which set the stage for a medieval Spain and its Conquistadores to undergo the destruction of civilizations for the benefit of a monarchy. Conquistadores seeks to peel back centuries of press, both good and bad, which have altered the modern understanding of the colonization efforts of the Spanish empire and to understand the motives and processes of expansion which came about through a complex history interwoven with the rest of Europe and the world at large.

  25. 4 out of 5

    James

    Bit of a slog despite being a book for general readers from a commercial press, Viking, rather than a book of formal scholarship from an academic press. There is apparatus, however -- chatty notes and references along with a robust bibliography which in and of itself will be valuable for readers looking to dig more deeply into a set of topics that often will be alien to them. The historical record as presented here is revisionist in that it attempts to present the conquistadores in the context of Bit of a slog despite being a book for general readers from a commercial press, Viking, rather than a book of formal scholarship from an academic press. There is apparatus, however -- chatty notes and references along with a robust bibliography which in and of itself will be valuable for readers looking to dig more deeply into a set of topics that often will be alien to them. The historical record as presented here is revisionist in that it attempts to present the conquistadores in the context of the non-unitary, pre-nationalist political and religious context rather than from the viewpoint of unitary nationalism as asserted from the 19th century to the current day. Some controversial stances derive from that. Among them the notion that the legal apparatus instituted by the conquistadores -- and the vice-regal regime it fostered -- was quite effective, long lasting, and (gird yourself) actually beneficial for and respectful to the indigenous populations it displaced. The notes actually contain an assertion that the Spanish Inquisition "has emerged from recent investigations as a comparatively benign body, managing to bring about a relative degree of moderation by comparison with other judicial institutions of the time." Spain's exiled, suppressed, and pogromed Jewish populations might like to have a word about that. (That note is found on page 360, note #9; the index has it on page 358, however, which in the actual book is blank. See "commercial press," above. This sort of error rarely happens in books from presses that employ actual editors).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Ribera

    Exhaustive chronicle of the “discovery” of the “New World” and the devastating subjugation and genocidal extermination of the indigenous people of Mexico, Central America and northern South America. Authored by a Mexican scholar and based on primary sources, the book gives an introduction to the forces and philosophical influences prevailing in Spain at the time the voyages of exploration were begun. Recounts the Columbus story, the colonization of isles in Caribbean, invasion and colonization of Exhaustive chronicle of the “discovery” of the “New World” and the devastating subjugation and genocidal extermination of the indigenous people of Mexico, Central America and northern South America. Authored by a Mexican scholar and based on primary sources, the book gives an introduction to the forces and philosophical influences prevailing in Spain at the time the voyages of exploration were begun. Recounts the Columbus story, the colonization of isles in Caribbean, invasion and colonization of Mexico and Peru, early exploration of gulf states of the U.S. Cortés, Pizzaro, De Soto, Cabeza de Vaca, Ponce de Leon - they’re all there. The author gives much more than the myths we grew up with and fleshes out the characters, their motivations, their biases and influences. There is almost as much attention given to the indigenous leaders who opposed the conquistadors as to the invaders. Along with their respective motivations, biases and influences. The prevailing themes throughout the book are thirst for glory and wealth, deeply felt (if misguided) religious zeal, unspeakable cruelty and unrelenting decimation of native peoples, dealing with bureaucracy and religious authorities, courage and perseverance, and it all takes place in less than 50 years! While the historical elements are familiar, the true merit of the book lies in the analyses the author provides of the events and the characters on all sides, the conquistadors the inhabitants, the monarchy and bureaucracy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Craig Martin

    A sweeping and authoritative account of a century that defined the junction of the old world and the new world. A fascinating insight into the back story of the explorers and conquerors of central and South America in the 15 and 16th centuries. The book gave a fresh colour to the storyboard of who, how and why, in relation to the invasion, liberation and exploitation of the peoples of the lands ‘discovered’ by the adventurers from Spain. The book is quite academic and detailed, with a massive bib A sweeping and authoritative account of a century that defined the junction of the old world and the new world. A fascinating insight into the back story of the explorers and conquerors of central and South America in the 15 and 16th centuries. The book gave a fresh colour to the storyboard of who, how and why, in relation to the invasion, liberation and exploitation of the peoples of the lands ‘discovered’ by the adventurers from Spain. The book is quite academic and detailed, with a massive bibliography and set of notes, and the author has clearly researched his material from first sources. The brutality on both sides is displayed: human sacrificing local heads of state - to distant European emperors turning a half blind eye to the atrocities committed in their names, in order to fund their own battles. The details behind the lives and beliefs of the Aztec, Mayan and Inca peoples provides the background to how the Christian message is delivered and incorporated by the priests that accompanied the expeditions. I think people who have visited the region - particularly Mexico or Peru would find the book a fascinating primer on how the more ancient civilisations of the region met their ends, and how the modern chapter of Latin America got its beginning.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cool_guy

    Cervantes tries to situate the horrors committed by the conquistadors within their cultural context. This is important historical work; nonetheless, it doesn't let the conquistadors off the moral hook. These aren't the Mongols or even the Romans we're talking about. Whether we like it or not, the modern West is a direct outgrowth of the Christian Europe of this period. Many of the moral tools we use to make judgements about our world were developed during this era; some, for example, by Catholic Cervantes tries to situate the horrors committed by the conquistadors within their cultural context. This is important historical work; nonetheless, it doesn't let the conquistadors off the moral hook. These aren't the Mongols or even the Romans we're talking about. Whether we like it or not, the modern West is a direct outgrowth of the Christian Europe of this period. Many of the moral tools we use to make judgements about our world were developed during this era; some, for example, by Catholic thinkers like Las Casas, who was horrified by the cruelty he saw in the Americas. This is all the more vital because the plunder sent back to Europe by the conquistadors formed the material foundation for capitalism --- what Marx calls its "rosy dawn." It would be a waste of time to get wound up about what are, from our vantage point, the many crimes of the ancient world. Not so with the conquistadors. Whether we like it or not, Colombus, Cortez and Pizzaro are much more our forebearers than Plato or Aristotle.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anubis

    This book is quite hard to rate. On one side we have a very interesting story, very well researched and thoroughly presented. On the other, the author really struggles to make the book flow and readable. There are endless minutiae where the book bogs down completely, and tons of references to events happening around the world in the era, to which a lot of readers will be unfamiliar. I consider myself quite knowledgeable about the time period and Spain, but the other would want me to know the locati This book is quite hard to rate. On one side we have a very interesting story, very well researched and thoroughly presented. On the other, the author really struggles to make the book flow and readable. There are endless minutiae where the book bogs down completely, and tons of references to events happening around the world in the era, to which a lot of readers will be unfamiliar. I consider myself quite knowledgeable about the time period and Spain, but the other would want me to know the location of all indian tribes, and at the same time know what Erasmus of Rotterdam meant for the development of a subsection of Renaissance in Europe. So it's hard to rate book as i said. There are parts when the author writes well, but it's completely negated in sections where it stops to a crawl and he uses al lot of "big" words for the sake of sounding more scholarly, yet i don't think it succeeds. 3 star seems fair, but fair from the book i was hoping for given most of the reviews

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liam Ostermann

    A very splendid and very readable history of the Spanish discovery and conquests in the, to them, 'New World'. What makes this work particularly interesting and enlightening is the positioning of the events within the intellectual framework of the time. By understanding the the intellectual framework of how the conquistadores saw and understood their world and how that influenced the way they viewed the world they had 'discovered' makes it possible for us to follow what happened without in anywa A very splendid and very readable history of the Spanish discovery and conquests in the, to them, 'New World'. What makes this work particularly interesting and enlightening is the positioning of the events within the intellectual framework of the time. By understanding the the intellectual framework of how the conquistadores saw and understood their world and how that influenced the way they viewed the world they had 'discovered' makes it possible for us to follow what happened without in anyway excusing or diminishing the horrors of the conquest. The complexity of their world view and the way they applied it to the 'new' world allows a deeper understanding of what happened and what they tried to create in the Americas. Richly fascinating and essential reading for anyone who is interested in this period of history.

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