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Customer Review

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing story told in fascinating detail, March 11, 2002
This review is from: Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Old Mexico (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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 6, 2006 7:57:55 PM PST
More than crediting Cortes with being "clever," you should credit him with disease. Forget not that he and his men were run out of Tenochtítlan, and would most likely have been defeated if disease had not absolutely ravaged the Mexica population. I'm not saying Cortes was not an interesting fellow who did not pull off one of the most famous military conquests in world history, but your words suggest he should take credit for what smallpox gave him: a win.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2011 11:49:44 AM PDT
Did smallpox burn the Spanish ships and motivate the conquistadors to succeed or die? Did sickness ally itself with enemies of the Aztecs? Which illness held Moctezuma hostage against the good behavior of his people? And how was disease responsible for the victorious campaigns in Tabasco, Veracruz and Cholula, all of which predated any medical outbreak?

"Forget not" that while Cortes suffered a setback in Tenochtitlan, he still had a huge army to command, which would shortly be stiffened by reinforcements from Cuba. So, even if the Aztecs hadn't gotten sick, their defeat by the Spanish was a very real possibility.

There are a lot of "haters" out there who would like to think the conquest of Mexico was due to good fortune. But luck doesn't account for the pre-illness victories or Cortes' success in Cuba. He accomplished his achievements through a mixture of cleverness, ambition and ruthlessness. While you can judge for yourselves the worth of those accomplishments, kindly don't ascribe it all to "luck."
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