Gerald Sinstadt's Reviews > History of the Conquest of Mexico

History of the Conquest of Mexico by William H. Prescott
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's review
Jun 20, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: history
Read from June 18 to 20, 2012

Other reviews can be found of this book in other formats, but all agree that it is an astonishing achievement.

William H Prescott was an American historian whose sight had reduced him to near blindness, and who had never visited Mexico, yet researched and reconstructed original documents to produce a thrilling account of an epic seriesof events. The year is 1520. Cortes embarks from Cuba with the aim of claiming Mexico for Spain. Arriving in the capital, he is made welcome by the divine ruler, Montezuma, and the two men become friends. Montezuma comes to believe that Cortes is, in fact, the ancient Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl.

Cortes' attempts to convert Montezuma to Christianity fail. He takes his counterpart prisoner, but within chivalrous limits. The arrival of a new body of Spaniards, seeking to overthrow Cortes, whom they see as a vainglorious rebel, screws up the tension. Eventually, Montezuma dies and a fierce, bloody battle ensues.

Prescott told the story in five volumes, published in 1843. Professor Sir John Elliott has skilfully extracted the account of Cortes and Montezuma to present for modern readers a vivid portrayal that seems often like the scenario for a Hollywood blockbuster. We should be grateful to Prescott and to Sir John in equal measure.
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