Bryan Higgs's Reviews > The Last Days of the Incas

The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie
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's review
Mar 13, 11

bookshelves: history, anthropology
Read in March, 2011

In September 2010, we visited Peru, the Sacred Valley, Cusco, and in particular Machu Picchu -- the so-called "Lost City of the Incas". It was a wonderful trip, and piqued my curiosity enough to want to learn something of the history of how the Conquistadors ("Conquerers" in Spanish) defeated the Incas, an empire of approximately 10 million, with only ~160 Spaniards. I looked for a book that would be interesting, informative, and not too dry, and found this book. I just finished reading it a few days ago, and can highly recommend it.

I was never much into history because my only exposure to it (as a 14-16 year old in school in England) I found dry, boring and uninteresting (memorizing dates, kings, wars, battles and the like was never high on my list of likes). This book, unlike others I was exposed to, drew me in and maintained my attention. I knew that the Conquistadors were brutal in their conquest, but this book shows how brutal they were (very!), and also how deceitful -- both to the Inca (actually, the Inca was the emperor, not the name of the culture or people; they are the Quechua) and to their own fellow-Spaniards.

The book starts with Hiram Bingham's discovery of Machu Picchu in 1911, and then goes back to the 15th and 16th centuries to describe the rise of the Incas under the Inca emperor Pachacuti, followed by the arrival of the Spanish and how they conquered the Inca empire with surprisingly few soldiers. Then the book returns to the 20th century and describes the three major explorers of the ruins of the Incan cities: Bingham, Gene Savoy, and Vincent Lee. These explorers are portrayed including their faults, which makes the description more interesting.

My only regret is that I have not yet learned about how the South American countries gained their independence from the Spanish and the Portuguese -- in essence, the history between about 1600 and the 20th century. This is not a criticism of this book, because that is beyond the scope of the book.
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