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History of the Conquest of Mexico & History of the Conquest of Peru Paperback – August 15, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

[History of the Conquest of Mexico] is as much a triumph over the genre as it is a saga of religious imperialism, Hernán Cortés' harsh victory over the Aztec nation. (Neil Baldwin Los Angeles Times)

About the Author

William Hickling Prescott (1796-1859) ranks with Francis Parkman and Edward Gibbon as one of the greatest historians of the 19th century. Despite eye problems that led to eventual blindness, Prescott wrote many widely praised works of history including The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella and The History of Phillip II.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1328 pages
  • Publisher: Cooper Square Press; Reprint edition (August 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815410042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815410041
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 2.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #415,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I concern myself only with the first part only (the Conquest of Mexico), and compare it to its twentieth-century equivalent, Hugh Thomas's THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO. The obvious difference is in language, since Prescott's long clausulae and cadences are, to us moderns, harder to read. (There is an "updated for modern readers" version of Prescott available elsewhere on amazon, which I have not seen.) One might have expected Thomas would have the advantage of modern research, but the sad fact is that we know litle more now than we did 150 years ago -- both Prescott and Thomas had to use the same source material.
Specifically looking at the famous event of July 1 1520, the "Noche Triste", I see that Prescott and Thomas differ (in the following I will put Thomas inside parentheses). Prescott says the Spaniards chose to retreat on the Tlacopan causeway which was different from the one they came on (Thomas calls it the Tacuba causeway and says that it's the one they came in on); Prescott says Cacama the Lord of Texcoco came along (Thomas says Cacama was killed a month earlier); Prescott says Tlaxcalans were distributed throughout the column (Thomas says they were in the centre); Prescott says "several Indian sentinels" saw the Spaniards leaving (Thomas says it was one woman fetching water); and finally Prescott says that Pedro de Alvarado pole-vaulted over a break on the causeway (Thomas says that can't be true). Also Prescott's passage on the Noche Triste is longer than Thomas's, not just because he's more verbose (which he is), but because he includes details that Thomas omits. Now, for the question "which account is true?" I am unqualified to judge two such thorough scholars, but I know that Prescott is right about Cacama, more believable about the sentinels, and less believable about Alvarado's Leap, so I'd call it a tie in that respect. And so, which account was simply more interesting? Prescott.
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Format: Hardcover
William Prescott's "History of the Conquest of Mexico" and "History of the Conquest of Peru" are brought together in one volume that provides a solidly researched and detailed account of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. The first volume, describing the Mexican conquest, is the better of the two. In the first chapters, Prescott describes the life and culture of the native Mexican tribes, concentrating on the dominant Aztecs, their religion, customs, achievements in literature, astronomy, agriculture and mechanical arts, and discusses the infighting among the various native princes that set them up for a fall when the Spanish conquistadores landed in the New World. Prescott writes about the efforts of Bartolomé de las Casas to protect the natives from slavery and how this was rejected on the specious grounds that the Indians had to be brought into contact with the Spaniards in order to be converted to Christianity and slavery was the only way to achieve this end. Prescott describes the conquest of the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Santo Domingo and San Juan de Puerto Rico (as it was then known) as a precursor of the conquest of the Mexican mainland, and how some Indians like Montezuma thought the Spaniards were there for their benefit, whereas others, like Xicotencatl, the Tlascalan chief, were suspicious of the Spaniards' motives from the beginning and tried to unite the native tribes against them. The Noche Triste, brought on by the arrogance and cruelty of the Spanish captain Pedro de Alvarado, is described in such detail that the reader is totally caught up in the narrative. One finishes this volume filled with admiration at Prescott as an historian and a writer, and regretting what a great civilization was destroyed out of pure greed and lust for gold.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a historian. I just like to read history and historical fiction. I first discovered William Prescott's Conquest of Peru in the back of a used bookstore. My kids are from Peru so I decided I should check it out. The first section was about the Inca civilization; their society, customs, politics, and more. It was certainly interesting and readable, but a bit dry. Once the narrative turned to Pizzaro and his band of adventurers, however, I was hooked. They don't call Prescott a romantic historian for nothing. He blends detailed accounts of absolutely outrageous courage, hardship, audacity, greed, ignorance, politics, faith, slaughter, naiveté, and more with vivid insights into the lives, characters and motives of the people involved. The story reads like excellent historical fiction, and yet it's meticulously researched fact.
Prescott's Conquest of Mexico is every bit as good as Conquest of Peru. The book starts with a section on the Aztec civilization, then turns to Cortez and his men. These adventurers behaved as though they were invincible, they believed their faith in God made them so, and one almost comes to believe that they were as they beat unimaginable odds over and over and over again. I was on the edge of my seat through all three volumes.
No offense to Lewis & Clark (or Stephen Ambrose), but Prescott's Conquest of Mexico and Conquest of Peru make Undaunted Courage sound like a family picnic. Remarkable events told by a remarkable author. It's no wonder these books are still popular more than one and a half centuries after they were written.
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