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The Conquest of the Incas Paperback – April 28, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0156028264 ISBN-10: 0156028263

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Editorial Reviews


"'A superb work of narrative history' Antonia Fraser; 'It is a delight to praise a book of this quality which combines careful scholarship with sparkling narrative skill' Philip Magnus, Sunday Times; 'A superbly vivid history'" (The Times)

From the Back Cover

Winner of the Christopher Award

"Distinguished by an extraordinary empathy, a feeling of one's way into the minds of the 16th-century Spaniards and Indians ... A provocative book." -The New York Times

Praised as the finest account of the annihilation of the Incan empire since W.H. Prescott's History of the Conquest of Peru, this compelling, authoritative account removes the Incas from the realm of prehistory and legend and shows the reality of their struggle against the Spanish invasion. Drawing on rediscovered sources and a firsthand knowledge of the Incan terrain, Hemming vividly describes postconquest Peru and the integration of the Incas into the Spanish society, refuting many misconceptions about the decline of the Incan empire.

With maps, line drawings, and 24 pages of photography

John Hemming has written extensively for both popular and academic audiences about South American history. A writer, explorer, and anthropologist, he is a member of the Royal Geographic Society and has traveled extensively in all continents, crossing the Sahara and Syrian deserts and taking part in a major exploration of a previously unknown part of Brazil.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (April 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156028263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156028264
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The writing style is excellent and the book is a very quick read.
Lehigh History Student
For anyone interested in South American history, Peru, the Incan society, or just looking for a good read I would highly recommend this book.
Paul A. Peters
The book provides detailed maps, glossory of Peruvian words and footnotes on historical events...all very good.
Michael Caraway

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on May 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Conquest of the Incas" is almost unquestionably the best book ever written about the 16th century Spanish conquest of the Inca empire in Peru and neighboring countries. It replaces Prescott's famous "Conquest of Peru," a brilliant piece of research and writing but one compiled at a Boston desk from archival materials. Hemming has much more personal familiarity with the subject and a much greater range of sources to draw on.

How it was that conquistador Francisco Pizarro and less than 200 men were able to overthrow the Inca empire of 15 million subjects is one of the great tales of history. "Conquest" details that struggle for power in convincing and fascinating detail, focusing on Pizarro and his brothers who were all brutal, deceitful, and courageous. Hemming gives almost equal time to the Incas and their leaders as they struggle against or accommodate themselves to Spanish rule. (As will be evident to contemporary visitors to Cuzco and Andean Peru, the Spanish conquest never penetrated very deeply. The Inca culture and language still live; Pizarro is despised by most Peruvians and the last Inca, Tupac Amaru, is a national hero.)

The story of the conquest has been romanticized in the classic play "Royal Hunt of the Sun" which is well worth seeing for its portraits of Pizarro and the Inca emperor Atahualpa. But the capture and murder of Atahualpa is only the beginning of the story. What followed was a 40 year struggle between Inca and Spaniard (and among Spaniards) for control of Peru that ended with the beheading of Tupac Amaru. The last chapter of the book moves into modern times as it describes the search for the lost Inca province of Vilcabamba and the discovery of Machu Pichu in the early 20th century.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Bob Bennett III on November 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I began this book just before my visit to Peru and read it along the way - a great way to prepare for the trip and to absorb more during an incredibly educational experience. It really was a key part of my enjoyment of the trip, because I was able to glean more from our various guides and better appreciate the ruins and spanish buildings, particularly in and around Cuzco. The book is an interesting read, but note that the fall of the Incas is essentially completed during the first 100 pages - a good thing if you want a thorough understanding of the history in a very brief time, a bad thing if you were looking for more detail. (I actually liked this aspect of the book.) Another key to this book's success is Hemming's ability to convey who was actually writing the history since of course the goings on would be viewed and recorded differently by spanish conquistadors vs. religious types, to say nothing of the difference of opinion about what happened between the Spanish and the native quechuas. He does a good job of illustrating the different views and allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions about what may have actually happened. I found out about this book from Lonely Planet-the key travel book for the area-and I agree with them and thoroughly recommend it. No trip to Peru should be taken without it!
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a readable and authoritative account of Pizarro's conquest of Peru and search for El Dorado in the 1530's: a must-read backgrounder for those who plan a trip to Cuzco and Machu Picchu and an astounding account of war strategies and incredible upsets in a hostile mountain terrain between unequal forces with vastly different technologies. It gives real understanding into present-day relationships between the Spanish and native peoples in South America. I couldn't put it down.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Michael Scott ( on April 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
I will be visting Peru next month and decided to read this book after the Lonely Planet guide to Peru mentioned Hemmings work as the definitive account of the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire. I finished this fine book and will be going to Cuzco, the former capital of the Incas, with much more enthusiam and interest than can be acquired reading a library full of guide books. What could be more interesting than this true story: Francisco Pizzaro lands on the coast of Peru in the early 1500s. Cortez has just taken Mexico. A powerful Inca emperor has died and a civil war has ensued among his sons. A winner, Atahulpa, is starting to emerge but the war is far from over. Atahalpa thinks very little of the accounts of these strange men, Europeans, who ask for a meeting. Pizzaro arranges a meeting and Atahalpa decends from the hills, carried on a litter, with thousands of warriors. The two meet, and Pizzaro and his handful of Spainards are able to capture the Inca and slaughter hundreds of astonished Indians! The account of the conquest that follows is so incredibly interesting and balanced that it would be hard to imagine an invented work of fiction being more enthralling. Hemming gives a fascinating description of the Inca society and of the conquistadors and missionaries. The Incas did not go down without a protracted fight and Hemming describes these wars in detail with first rate scholarship and complete balance. This book is written like Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore, a description of the founding of Australia. Anyone who is interested in history, adventure, geography, and sociology could do no better than read either of these fine books.
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