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Conquest: Cortes, Montezuma, and the Fall of Old Mexico Paperback – April 7, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the author of The Spanish Civil War comes this epic history of the fall of the Aztec empire to Spain.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Digging into thousands of pages of legal testimony given in the 1520s by participants in Cortes's expedition against the Mexico of ancient Mesoamerica, Thomas revisits the Spanish invasion of the Aztec Empire. The result is a richer account of the personalities, events, and social setting of this momentous episode than currently exists in accessible form. The complex genealogical interweaving of Castilian and Mexican royal families, the intricacies of battle strategy and tactics, the labyrinthine political machinations, and the brutal imposition of external standards of behavior and belief--all are described in a gripping narrative by Thomas, a British academic. His sterling achievement is to illustrate the complex historical foundation of modern Mexico. Although the book is intended for a general audience, extensive chapter-by-chapter endnotes and an annotated bibliography of major sources reveal the depth of the author's scholarship. No library should be without this important contribution to Latin American history.
- William S. Dancey, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (April 7, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671511041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671511043
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Center Man on January 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This would be worth a look simply because Thomas does what all good historians should: sink their readers deeply into past ages and former cultures by way of a fascinating story.
But even better . . .
Recent histories of the Spanish Conquest tend to emphasize the atrocities of the conquistadors while upholding the virtues of the indigenous peoples. While well-intentioned (and a needed corrective to chronicles written in the previous 100 years), the approach has an annoying tendency to demonize Europeans, turn the natives into statuary and drain all the drama from the past.
So I'm grateful for Hugh Thomas and his neo-revisionist history. The Spaniards are ultimately the heavies, but presented with all their complexities and ambitions on display (who knew Hernan Cortes could be so interesting?). They aren't completely malevolent.
Similarly, Thomas avoids the Howard Zinn/PC trap of turning America into Eden and Indians into children by detailing the delicate intertwining of politics and religion in the Mexican (aka Aztec) empire, by displaying the cruelty the Mexica could occasionally summon toward their subjects and by placing it all in the proper cultural context -- as with the Spaniards, you understand why they did what they did, even if you don't approve of it.
Wrap an exquisite narrative thread around the whole package and you've got a book for the ages.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 12, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't praise this book enough. The story of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico through Cortez is unbelievably compelling. Even so, Mr. Thomas writes brilliantly and tells this story better than I have ever seen, read, or heard it done. He brings life to all of the characters along the way including those that came before Cortez, those that he met and made allies along the way, those he turned into enemies, and especially Montezuma. The final battle for Tenochtitlan is frightening and heartbreaking.
This is history that reads like fiction. The world of Mexico before the Conquistadors is so foreign to the Western mind that it reads almost like fiction or fantasy. Yet it all happened, and Mr. Thomas tells it with power and passion. This is a book you owe it to yourself to read. Just amazing and wonderful.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By M. A Michaud on March 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This still is the best book in English on the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Far more than most historians, Thomas explores the interconnections among the leading personalities, both Spanish and Mexican, giving the reader a feeling for the noble and the devious aspects of these sixteenth century people. Politics and the exercise of power emerge as major themes. The author brings out the contingency of history through his analysis of key events that might have gone another way. There was nothing inevitable about Cortes' ultimate success; if he had not been so clever and ruthless, he might have ended up as a human sacrifice in an Aztec temple. As it was, more than half of the conquistadors died, a casualty rate that no modern army would tolerate. The six hundred page text is supplemented by useful appendices. This book would be even better if it were more fully illustrated.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By on April 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a history of the Spanish conquest of the Mexica (Aztec)people during the first decades of the sixteenth century. Although Thomas' writing style is that of the typical historian, the story is nothing short of spellbinding. Thomas presents a balanced account of one of the greatest adventure stories in human history. The central character is Hernan Cortez, one of the most complex, brilliant and cruel men who ever walked the planet. Thomas also manages to provide a balanced account of Cortez' counterpart, Montezuma, and his religious, political and economic culture. If Steven Spielberg or someone of equal talent were to make a movie of this story it would certainly be one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. Dense but spellbinding. My hat is off to Thomas for a job well done. Hightly recommended reading
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
Conquest is the absolutely complete story of the yielding of one great empire to another. British historian Hugh Thomas has assembled an awe inspiring account of the backgrounds of Hernan Cortés, and his counterpart, the Emperor of the Mexica (Mesheeca, the author does not refer to them as Aztec, preferring to use the named they had for themselves) Montezuma II. Thomas painstakingly details events that led up to the confrontation between the two. He maps the Spanish invasion and manipulation of New Spain and Mexico. He adeptly details the political climate of Spain, and of her conquered territories of Hispaniola, and Cuba. With texture and substance, this extraordinary time is shown in the context in which it was meant to be presented. The search for gold played a tremendous role in the conquest of Mexico, and Thomas does not shy away from exploring the insatiable appetite the Conquistadors had for this precious metal. This desire baffled the Mexicans, for they only recognized the ritualistic and artistic value of gold. Human sacrifice is an element that played a large part in the Castilians' revulsion towards the Mexicans. This practice dehumanized the Mexicans in the eyes of the Castilians. The author does not shrink from a discussion of this practice, either. In short, Conquest is an in depth, incredibly researched and thorough undertaking that will remain as the definitive work of this event. I recommend it for any history buff, or anyone who is curious as to why Latin America and especially Mexico are the way they are today.
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