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History of the Conquest of Peru Paperback – August 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap


Originally published in 1847, History of the Conquest of Peru, a companion volume to William H. Prescott's masterly History of the Conquest of Mexico, continues his vivid chronicle of Spanish exploits in the New World. The book's commanding vision of Pizarro's tumultuous overthrow of the Inca empire has secured its reputation as a classic in the literature of Latin American history.
------"History of the Conquest of Peru represents an author's triumph over his materials," observed Donald G. Darnell, one of the historian's several biographers. "Prescott exploits to the fullest any opportunities for dramatic effects that history might provide him. . . . If there is one [distinguishing] feature of the Conquest of Peru . . . it is the portrayal of the Spanish character, that striking fusion of courage, cruelty, pride, and gallows humor. . . . We seem to be overhearing dialogue and observing firsthand the interaction between the Spaniards as they struggle for control of an empire. . . . Although Peru lacks a noble protagonist . . . it is still an immensely readable history. The description of the Inca civilization, particularly its wealth, the precise explanation of the cause of the conflict between the conquerors, and the depiction of the Spanish character--these together with the careful research, the sheer abundance of anecdotes, and the exploitation of primary materials all contribut
e to the history's continuing popularity." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Prescott was from a prosperous, old New England family. In 1811 he entered Harvard, where his academic record was good but undistinguished; he had serious difficulties with mathematics, and in later life the prospect of appraising the mathematical achievements of the aboriginal Mexicans almost prevented him from completing his work. Near the end of his junior year, a crust of bread thrown during a melee in the student commons caused virtual blindness in his left eye; the weakness of his other eye, caused by infection, sometimes prevented him from carrying on any kind of literary work. Throughout his life, Prescott's vision seems to have fluctuated from good to total blindness, and he often resorted to the use of a noctograph, a writing grid with parallel wires that guided a stylus over a chemically treated surface. Substantial portions of all his books and correspondence were composed on this device. He died in 1859.

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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Press
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (August 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184212594X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842125946
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,808,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Brad Shorr on October 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The conquest of the mighty Inca empire by a small contingent of Spanish adventurers, and their subsequent civil wars fought for control of the region, is a story so dramatic and improbable that it's hard to believe it actually happened. Prescott's artistic style, meticulous attention to detail, and brilliantly structured narrative bring out all the drama and excitement. Unlike many histories, this work has nothing about it that is tedious or dry--particularly remarkable since Prescott never visited South America and developed his sweeping account exclusively from literary sources. The author's ability to reconstruct the attitudes and motivations of the key characters gives the reader a much deeper understanding of the events. Before reading the book, I knew next to nothing about the Incas or the settlement of the region. Upon finishing it, I felt as though I'd received a thorough (and most enjoyable) schooling.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Quinn Burleson on March 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A wonderful book! It reads like great fiction but the events aren't fiction-- they actually happened! This book kept me captivated, I couldn't put it down! Prescott does a marvelous Job!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Philip Greenspun on May 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this one while traveling around Peru and the local experts confirmed the accuracy of Prescott's 150-year-old writings about Inca culture. Many of the most important actors in the book were surprisingly old considering the hardships that they endured. For example, Pizarro himself was 60 when he started heading down towards Peru through terrible storms in wooden boats, often getting stranded in mosquito-infested jungles without food for months at a time. He was 65 by the time he actually conquered Peru. One of the Pizarro family's most effective generals in their fights against other Spaniards was 80-84 during the period of these civil wars.
This book makes a great gift for anyone traveling to Ecuador or Peru and for anyone over the age of 60.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Douglas P. Murphy on March 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
When you travel to Peru, even today, the country's landscape and country are dominated by the conflict that occurred between the Incas and the Spaniards in the 16th century. Spanish style buildings are intermixed with those of the entirely different culture of the Incas. This book portrays the battles and conflicts in vivid terms, and although it is a sad story, one of greed and conquest, it is still quite interesting. If you have been to Cuzco you can superimpose the events of the book on that city in your mind and just sit back in awe. For those who find this part of the world interesting I can highly recommend this book. You get a better sense of the Spaniards but that is probably because most of the written history comes from their records. Whatever sophistication the Incas had in their culture and architecture is still a bit of a mystery.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Oldacre on December 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
Having recently purchased “The Incas and their Ancestors”, and taking a quick look at the contents, I decided that before I got down to reading it I should read a couple of other books I had on my bookshelves about the history of Peru. The first one was “The Civilization of the Incas” by Jean-Claude Valla (first published in 1978) which I have already reviewed and this one “The Conquest of Peru” by William H Prescott – which was first published in 1847.

I have read this book at least a couple of times before and the edition which I read was published in 1961. Even though it is in far from mint status, it was worth the time I spent in re-reading it, not just because it provided a useful contrast with the “The Civilization of the Incas” with all of its speculative theories about the origins of the Incas, but also because I could re-learn much of what I had since forgotten about this remarkable civilization to prepare myself for studying the record of their long past and immediate precursors in Peru.

As the editor, Victor Von Hagen explains, in the opening paragraph of his introduction “Few historical pieces such as this have withstood the test of time so well, and even less have such pioneer works withstood the assault of archaeological discoveries – and historians” and even though that was written over 50 years ago, and much modern archaeological research has taken place since then, the fact seems to be that what Prescott wrote about in the Conquest of Peru is fundamentally correct, because Prescott took the time and trouble to study the many unpublished reports on the conquest which had been hidden away and ignored by Spanish historians for almost 300 years. Most of the reports were written some 50 years or so after the events of the conquest itself.
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Format: Paperback
History of the Conquest of Peru by William H Prescott is a very thoroughly researched and interestingly written account.of the Incas way of life and the subsequent changes when the Spaniard conquistadors invaded the country in the 16th century. I enjoyed this book because it satisfied an ambition to `know` what happened in those early formative days.

The edition I read is a re publication of the original printed in 1847. My copy is a paper back with small print and an extensive bibliography.

I would recommend this book to anyone requiring an authentic, unabridged and fascinating history of a remarkable country.
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