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Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195176117
ISBN-10: 0195176111
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to historical consensus, the Spanish conquest of the New World was a cataclysm in which superior European technology and organization overwhelmed Native American civilizations. In this daring revisionist critique, Penn State historian Restall describes a far more complex process in which Indians were central participants on both sides of the struggle. Far from regarding the Spaniards as gods, Restall argues, Indians offered a variety of shrewd, pragmatic responses to the invaders while advancing their own political agendas. Indeed, given that the conquistadors were vastly outnumbered by their Indian allies, the Conquest was in many respects a civil war between natives. Nor did Indian societies fall apart at one blow: independent Mayan polities, for example, persisted into the 19th century. Even under Spanish rule, Indians continued to live in self-governing communities, where they maintained their own languages, cultures and leaders who had considerable clout with the colonial administration. Drawing on Spanish, Native American and West African accounts of the Conquest, academic studies and even Hollywood movies, Restall examines the paradigm of European triumph and Indian "desolation" as it evolved from the conquistador's self-serving narratives to contemporary interpretations by such writers as Jared Diamond and Kirkpatrick Sale. Rejecting the implicit juxtaposition of "subhuman" Indians with "superhuman" Europeans, Restall asserts instead that, through war and epidemic, native societies retained much of their autonomy and cohesion, and "turned calamity into opportunity." Restall's provocative analysis, wide-ranging scholarship and lucid prose make this a stimulating contribution to the debate on one of history's great watersheds. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review


"Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest is an engaging and highly readable account of the history of the conquest of the Amerias."--Jennifer Jobb, Against the Current


"A daring revisionist critique.... Restall's provocative analysis, wide-ranging scholarship and lucid prose make this a stimulating contribution to the debate on one of history's great watersheds."--Publishers Weekly


"This is an important book. It should be read by all high school world history teachers, and by professors of the same....a powerful indictment of the myths that we all inadvertently rely on to explain a complex and distant period. It will undoubtedly stir up a discussion about the reality of these myths and what others might find in both popular and scholarly writing in this field, and others." --American Historical Review


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195176111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195176117
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter S. Bradley on October 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Matthew Restall's "Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest" is an illuminating introduction to the Conquest of the Americas. The value of Restall's book is that it provides a broad overview of the facts, circumstances and personalities of the Conquest while diving deeper into particular "myths" around which Restall organizes his book.

Although he calls his chapters "myths," it isn't clear to me that these are myths in the sense that they are erroneous things that people think about when they think of the Spanish Conquest. A lot of the myths are things that we don't normally think about at all, albeit if pushed to take a position, we might adopt the "mythicist" position sketched by Restall. For example, not all conquistadors were white, some were Africans who transitioned from slave to successful conquistadors while enslaved. This is a fascinating bit of history, particularly fascinating in the idea that a person from a sub-Saharan African tribe could make his way successfully into a completely alien culture. Is there a myth that all Conquistadors were white? I suspect that the answer is that most people just haven't thought about the subject.

What we get from Restall's book is that the Conquistadors, generally acting as entrepreneurial free companies with only the most limited backing of their sovereign, had perfected a technique of conquest, which basically involved descending on the next likely looking territory, enlisting native allies, capturing the native leader and massacring natives where necessary. The strategy worked like gang-busters, particularly when aided along by the introduction of European diseases that killed off 90% of the native population.

To the natives, it must have looked like the end of the world.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have not even finished reading yet but had to write a review. I travel extensively and for all these years the Spanish conquest of Americas never made sense to me. A few hundred people against tens of thousands ; even with all the illness that was brought with them; even with the stories about the Spanish being viewed as gods; even with the muscat and the wheel and the alphabet; even with the inherent white supremacy of the theory of the intelligence of the conquistadors... it just did not make sense to me. Read this book and suddenly it starts to make sense. Thank you.
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Format: Paperback
Interesting book with seven excellent points of the Spanish Conquest. For those who have done any kind of research into this period of history, would for the most part, agree to Mr. Restall's points. I was curious to see his explanations to the myths and his justifications. I found it enjoyable reading as a whole and agreed to most of his myths. This book would be more meaningful and insightful to a reader who has done some previous reading in this area.
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Format: Paperback
Though I had to read this for a college course, I still found this book fascinating. I really thought that Restall's arguements were sound and his conclusions were perfect. I especially found it intersting that he talks about black conquistadors. That is something that is not discussed in history books. The myth of just the white conquistador has definitely been debunked. He does a superb job with this book by using the conquistadors own words. I definitely recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Synthesizing much of what is known about Spain's American conquests, SMOTSC argues convincingly for less amazing or miraculous, if still impressive, Spanish achievements. The seven myths include invincible military prowess and superior technology; that victories came without significant help from Indian allies; that many Indians thought Spaniards were gods; greater facility in communication; etc. The actual factors aiding the conquest have been known to scholars for some time, but Restall performs a valuable service in presenting them to a broad public in highly readable style. A main result is to restore agency to those indigenes who aided or acquiesced in the conquest, and even manipulated conquistadores for their own ends. Restall frequently draws on his own prior research along with selected secondary sources. While praising some scholars, he attacks many more, which raises some hackles. More could be done to address two related questions: 1/ Do similar "myths" need correction regarding other conquests in the Americas, by other European powers? 2/ How was Spain able to hold so great an empire for so long? (Presumably the myths of conquest helped.) Tackling these issues would result in a stronger book, but probably is a task beyond Restall's intended focus. That leaves plenty of work for future historians, which is how it should be.
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"Seven Myths" is one of the most important pieces of revisionist history with respect to how the Spanish pressed their conquest of those parts of the Americas that came under their influence. It challenges and gives nuance to the standard narrative at almost every turn. One must know that narrative, as told, for instance, by Hugh Thomas in Conquest, in order to appreciate the depth of research that went into the "Seven Myths" and the changes in perspective it demands of those desiring to understand how history changing was the encounter between Europe and the Americas. The bibliography is definitive up to the time of publication.
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