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The Conquest of the Incas

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  573 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
This monumental work of history removes the Incas from the realm of legend and shows the reality of their struggles against the Spanish invasion. Winner of the 1971 Christopher Award. Index; photographs, maps, and line drawings.
ebook, 672 pages
Published October 24th 1973 by Houghton Mifflin (first published 1970)
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Oct 08, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, peru
Just about everyone knows about how Francisco Pizarro, the illiterate conquistador, captured the Inca Atahualpa, demanded a king's ransom in gold and silver, and put his prisoner to death anyway.

But that is only the beginning of the tale. The Incas rebelled under Manco Inca and retreated to Vilcabamba, from which they ran a truncated version of their society until they were finally defeated by the Spanish decades later.

John Hemming tells the whole story in Conquest of the Incas, from both the
If like me you only had an approximate idea of what the Spanish conquest of what is modern Peru meant for the local population, this book will shock you. The extent of the harassment and exploitation to which refined, modern Spaniards subjected the Indios surpasses imagination, especially as it is coupled with a hefty amount of hypocrisy: religious committees and even the Pope giving their blessing to what turned out to be mistreatment and downright abuse of the locals as well as pillaging of th ...more
Jul 18, 2013 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
"Conquest of the Incas" is certainly one of the finest--perhaps the finest--large-scale Historical study I have ever read. It has a remarkable precision of detail, depth of analysis, and epic scope that make it difficult to put down. And always we see the human element--the odd combination of religiosity and hideous greed of the conquistadors, the equally strange mixture of contempt for the Indians and a willingness to exploit them as well as a paternalistic concern for their welfare in Viceroy ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Bruno rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As Peruvian it was painful to read this episode in the history of my country. Specially since I am familiar with all the places mentioned in the book. As a reader I think this is a superb piece of work. Read it
Apr 09, 2017 Scot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
A truly well-researched and balanced look at the Spanish conquest of Peru that treated the conquered Incas as a noble people and shined a light on both the atrocities and few glimmers of goodness from the Spaniards.

Hemming's account explored the best theories of pre-conquest time through the final vestiges of Incan family lines. It was a surprisingly easy to read (though not fast) despite all of the accounts and literature he must have combed through. His accounts of the various leaders that tr
Margaret Crampton
This is an extremely well researched book and should be read by any visitor to Peru. It tells of the tragic demise of the amazing Inca civilization at the hands of the Spanish Conquistadors. In the 16th Century: The cruelty the deception, the bravery and violence and the looting and destruction of priceless gold and silver works of art, and the huge loss of the Inca kings and their Empire. Interesting are the final chapters detailing the searches in the 20th Century to discover explain and map t ...more
The Conquest of the Incas makes for rather grim reading, even more so than the conquest of Mexico. If any event contributed to the Leyenda Negra it was this, owing to its chaotic nature and opportunities for low level roguery, as well as the institutionalized cruelty that was an inevitable consequence of the rich silver mines in the area, given Spain's ambitions and economy at the time which entirely overrode the concerns raised by its humanist intellectuals. It's the story of a people's hopeles ...more
Feb 15, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this shortly after visiting Peru and more than anything it made me want to return to explore the country more as well as the rest of South America. The detailed account of the Spanish conquest of the Incas leaves nary a stone unturned in capturing the sequence of events that resulted in the invaders emerging as victors and stamping their mark on the face of the country. It was more complex than I imagined; I guess history always is. It is easy to picture the Conquistadors galloping throug ...more
Linda Harkins
Jul 06, 2014 Linda Harkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Detailed, thorough, rigorously researched, and extraordinary, this is the BEST book I've read about the Incas. How difficult it is to imagine what drove Francisco Pizarro except a quest for fame! The illegitimate son of a military officer, Pizarro was born in a barren area called Extremadura, about 140 miles from Madrid. Interestingly, this area is known as "the cradle of most of the leading conquistadores." Males born into poor circumstances in fifteenth-century Spain had the choice of marrying ...more
Mike Harmon
Feb 14, 2014 Mike Harmon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two weeks till the Harmon Siblings travel to Peru - read up and ready.

A thorough account of the conquest of the Peruvian Inca Empire by the Spanish Pizzaro brothers. Poor Incas - a typical battle with the Spanish Conquistadors would read something like: 150 Conquistadors went to fight the Incas. Eleven Spaniards were injured, one Spaniard and two horses were killed...3,000 Incas perished. I can't imagine how the Inca felt - one day a vastly superior alien race just shows up and all that you know
The Incas and the conquest of Peru are two of the most interesting stories in Latin American history. This book captures the whole of that story and in wonderful detail relates the invasion of Pizzaro and the fall of the Incas. From Manco Inca to Tuti Cosi the Inca rebellions raged against Spanish occupation and eventually resulted in the free Inca state of Villacamba. In the end this state was doomed to fall to Spanish greed but the attempts at the Incas to preserve sovereignty is impressive. T ...more
Jan 14, 2016 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bought an old version on Amazon for About $2. When I got it I saw how old it looked and set it aside for a year (thinking I would never be interested). I picked it up before I trip to Peru and was very surprised and how concise and well told the story is. It's a great story with good academic credentials, written in 1970 when a lot of the myths of the Inca's (Machu Pichu erroneously being confused as the last holdout of the Inca's, which it wasn't) still abounded.

Highly recommend for people int
May 10, 2017 Gert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty good overview for people who know virtually nothing about the Inca Empire and how it was conquered by the Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro. It spans the entire 40 years between the Spaniards first contact with the Incas and the destruction of the independent state of Vilcabamba, where the last Inca, Manco, fled after a failed insurrection against the Spanish. During that period there was fighting between Spanish and Inca forces, but also internal struggles between I ...more
Adriaan Jansen
Jul 18, 2014 Adriaan Jansen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An amazing book. Although it was written 44 years ago, John Hemming's ''The conquest of the Incas'' is still the definitive account of the Spanish conquest of Peru in the 16th century. The story of the conquest is both astonishing and horrible, and Hemming tells it well.

The conquest of the Incas was a first-contact clash of civilizations. The Incas and Spaniards didn't know each other when their first real encounter in Cajamarca in November 1532 almost immediately sealed the fate of the Incas.
Apr 20, 2013 Randal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A thorough, scholarly look at the history and causes of the collapse of the Incas.
Hemming does a good job of portraying the laudable and the baser motives of both sides in the conflict. I appreciated the fact that he did not fall into the PC trap of -- dare I say brownwashing? -- the indigenous people of the Andes.
Certainly the world would be better off had the conquistadors recorded and preserved the Incan culture, but the Incans were themselves recent conquerors of much of their empire when th
Tony Buman
Mar 29, 2013 Tony Buman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
As I worked through the book, I wrestled with what to rate it. It does an incredible job of telling the story of the conquest of the Incan Empire, a subject I knew nothing about. The detail the author goes into is amazing. He is obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about the topic. At times, I was enthralled and couldn't put the book down. There were other points where I struggled, and when I was wading through the chapter about some of the experimental governments the Spanish tried, I al ...more
Apr 02, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched and detailed account of the Spanish conquest of the Incas and their demise at the hands of the Spanish. Hemming pulls from original sources to tell the story of Pizarro and the conquistadors search for gold and the confiscatory transfer of valuable Inca religous object made from gold and silver back to the Spanish king to convince him to permit the Christian conversion of the Inca and the further exploration of Peru and Equador. The Inca were not only vulnerable to the avaricious ...more
Christian Layow
Feb 02, 2011 Christian Layow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just read this. I was actually reading another book at the time and heard of this from an article or documentary. I was inspired to write a song about the Spanish invasion of the Peruvian empire. I had read a book a couple years ago about Hernando de Soto and his explorations into North America. It covered his career in the Peruvian conquests, which had made him famous in Spain for his daring exploits. But the book did not cover the whole Incan period of that conquest nearly enough. This book ...more
May 29, 2015 emydeewrites rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: peru
People tend to assume sometimes that if someone has a particularly affinity for travelling in Peru that they are interested in the history of the Incas—since it's what first comes to mind when anyone thinks of Peru, mainly because of Machu Picchu. In fact, I liked Peru for a whole lot of other reasons and was in fact a bit of a philistine when it came to the Incas. I'd visited Machu Picchu before ever reading this, and had appreciated it mostly for its physical beauty. This book changed my persp ...more
Jan 18, 2011 Galicius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I decided to read this after a rather sudden and unprepared trip to Peru where I followed some of the trails of the Incas, starting in Lima, then staying a few days in Cusco, visiting Machu Picchu, Sacsahuaman, then continued by train to Puno, Lake Titicaca, and on to Arequipa, saw the Nazca lines, and returned to Lima. I should have read the book before I left. The sights, museums, what I saw would have told me more.
Jan 26, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The heartbreaking story of the end of a civilization. Rape, pillage and plunder abound as greed wins the day. Well documented and well told, though a little tedious in places with the telling of detailed campaigns. The last chapter brings the story to the modern day with the discovery of Machu Picchu, and the settling on the location of Vilcabamba.
Oct 30, 2013 Hayden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hemming offers a definitive history on the Spanish Conquest. The first 100 pages chronicle the almost unbelievable story of Francisco Pizarro's capture of Atihualpa, which facilitated the fall of the entire Incan empire. Even if you have no interest in delving into the rest of the history (which is well worth the effort by the way), those first chapters are a must-read.
David Becker
Jun 17, 2014 David Becker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-told narrative, and corrected many erroneous assumptions about the Pizarro conquest. It was horses, not guns, that gave the conquistadores such an advantage. That and internal disarray within the Inca government/military, which was much better at amassing an empire than maintaining it. Useful historical lessons to be derived.
Apr 10, 2014 Claire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and engrossing history. The author has some biases, mostly in favor of the Incas who resisted Spanish conquest most vigorously, but this is pretty understandable given the disgraceful, greedy behavior of the Spaniards. The Incas were not necessarily saints, but they had a well-ordered society, which the Spaniards cheerfully destroyed.
Sinta Jimenez
Jun 25, 2013 Sinta Jimenez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book while traveling for several weeks in Peru. It was captivating and is thoroughly backed with original documentation including correspondence of conquistadors, journal entries of friars, etc. The Spanish theory of conquest is fully explored and how the nature of conquest has impacted modern power in Peru.
Sep 08, 2010 Mark is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
A few chapters in. Started to read while on vacation in NH, found on my brother's bookshelf. Very sad book. Just finished reading the sack of the Inca capital, and how the Spanish melted all the Inca gold & silverfigures--a loss to the world forever. The event belongs to the museum of the stupidity of the human race...
Jul 10, 2013 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It gives a good history from the Spanish explorers into the Inca empire and all the facts are easy to follow and a pleasure to read.
I travelled a bit in the area and now after reading the book all the ruins and historical buildings came to live.
Feb 13, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really comprehensive survey of the first Spanish explorers impact on the Incan Empire. Maybe too much detail for some.
Jan 07, 2009 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
bloody and detailed tale of the demise of the incan empire. much cooler for me than might be for others, because i was in the places the book was describing when i read it.
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Goodreads Librari...: Correct number of pages 9 29 Mar 17, 2013 03:28PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please combine these editions 2 18 Mar 17, 2013 06:48AM  
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Dr John Hemming, CMG is one of the world's experts on Brazilian Indians, the Amazon environment, the Incas, Peruvian archaeology, The Royal Geographical Society, and the history of exploration generally. He is also Chairman of Hemming Group Ltd., a company that publishes trade magazines and organises trade exhibitions and conferences.

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