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The Last Days of the Incas

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  4,889 ratings  ·  436 reviews
Kim MacQuarrie lived in Peru for five years and became fascinated by the Incas and the history of the Spanish conquest. Drawing on both native and Spanish chronicles, he vividly describes the dramatic story of the conquest, with all its savagery and suspense. This authoritative, exciting history is among the most powerful and important accounts of the culture of the South ...more
Hardcover, 522 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by Simon & Schuster
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Enrique First, as mentioned by Gabriel, Human Sacrifice is not covered in this book. However, "The History of the Conquest of Peru" by William H. Prescott doe…moreFirst, as mentioned by Gabriel, Human Sacrifice is not covered in this book. However, "The History of the Conquest of Peru" by William H. Prescott does. According to Prescott, Human Sacrifice in the Inca Empire was extremely rare. Is there any book out there that states otherwise? Please inform.

Second, there was no slavery in the Inca Empire. There were vassal nations, different ethnic groups within the Empire. However, according to all accounts, although most of the land belonged to the State, people were only required to provide a certain amount of work for the benefit of the state. The rest of the time they were free to use their labor for their own benefit. Massive slavery only became real during the Spanish hegemony where all labor was for the benefit of the Spanish elite and the population only received the minimum for surviving and destitution and poverty became the norm.

Third, if an invading force came into your country and through brute force and deceit, stole all the gold, the silver, the land, the women and captured your leader and enslaved the population, wouldn't you want to kill them too?

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Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
After traveling to Peru last spring, and visiting several of the historical, archaeological sites, I really wanted to understand the history. One of our guides, most definitely of Inca descent, became very saddened and nostalgic when discussing this topic. She was very conversant with the history of the Incas, and their achievements. But there is only so much one can absorb in the course of several days of touring. So, this book fills the void for me. The book describes the conquest of the Incas ...more
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As a Peruvian I feel really sorry for what happened at that time. It looks that I am a kind of witness when reading this book...Thank you Mr. MacQuarrie. I can picture each scene. Also, the books makes me reflect of how the Inca empire was affected deeply by this gang, I believe it was because the empire was divided in many ways for power. Spaniards were lucky finding a place like this. Racism, killing, stealing, lying were their heritage left, among others. Three centuries later, it is interest ...more
Jason Golomb
The Last Days of the Incas is a terrifically readable history of the Spanish conquest of the Incas and Peru. Whereas John Hemming's Conquest of the Incas is the definitive modern history, MacQuarrie brings to bear a more narrative and engaging approach.

Last Days is historically thorough, but MacQuarrie writes many of the incidents of the conquest in a more fictional style. Often scenes are are qualified with comments like "Undoubtedly, Pizarro felt such-and-such," or "No doubt Manco looked out o
Kressel Housman
This is a very well-researched, very well-written history book about a period and culture I knew very little about: the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in South America. Though I would not go so far as to say it read like a novel, certain parts did, especially when the author was creating a “hook” to introduce the next series of events. I understand he’s an Emmy award-winning documentarian, so he knows how to tell a story.

If the author ever decides to adapt this book into film, the protagon
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-history
I read a fair amount of history but the ancient peoples of Central and South America are some of my blindspots. This may not have been the best place to start since the book, obviously, deals with the end of the Incas but I did learn quite a few facts that have piqued my interest in what led up to their demise as an empire.

Seems the Incas were actually conquerors themselves and made up a very small minority of the actual population. They had defeated all the surrounding tribes and were considere
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating, epic (22 hours on audio) history of the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors into the Andes in the early 16th century. It's chilling to learn details of the "conquest" of the Incan empire. The Spaniards, led by the 5 Pizarro brothers, initially came in minuscule numbers, and were often outnumbered in their battles by factors of 10,000 to 1 or more. But they slaughtered the natives with impunity, rarely suffering casualties. They had horses, armor, and steel - innovations ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: socenamer, history, 2000s
After reading a library copy, bought copies both for myself and gifts to others.
Awesome read. I grew up hearing all kinds of things about Cortes conquering the Mexica (or Aztecs). The stories of Tenochtitlan and the fighting on its causeways were amazing. But I really knew very little about Pizzaro and the Inca.

If the Mexica were basically a loose conglomeration of city-states, the Inca were a world-class empire stretching for over a thousand miles down the Andes and even over the mountains into the rainforest. As pure story, the Spanish saga with the Inca makes that of th
Melissa McShane
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very readable account of the conquest of the Incas by Francisco Pizarro and 167 of his conquistador buddies. That number shocked me. The Inca emperor Atahualpa had thousands of warriors at his command, and Pizarro and his steel-armored, horse-mounted men rode all over them. That's just so incredibly wrong I have trouble grasping it.

MacQuarrie does a great job of interweaving contemporary accounts with modern scholarship and brings the various individuals involved to life. What struck m
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This topic represents another in a long list of things I know virtually nothing about. I am generally skeptical of historical books that describe long-ago events with the level of detail that is provided here. It simply strains credibility, in my view, to re-create conversations that took place in the Andean mountains centuries ago, especially when the records from the time are virtually non-existent. The author seems particularly in tune with this skepticism, as he qualifies his writing several ...more
Blake Charlton
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
very well researched, told with enthusiasm and clarity. surprising and important portray of how brutal the spanish were and how similar the two empires were. a few facts that may surprise: the inca empire was only 90 years old when the Spanish arrived, the original conquest was conducted by a small 'private corporation' of conquistadors given license by the Spanish monarchy to practice piracy and terrorism upon indigenous populations, and many others. my only complaint was the repetitive style, ...more
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: outside-reading
A great book for anybody planning a trip to Peru, especially those who will make the journey to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. This history book tells the story of both the Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire, as well as the history of the archaeological rediscovery of the ruins of that empire. An easy to read history, that reads more like a novel, it is full of adventure and information. A fascinating story, and one that is extremely well told.
Michael Huang
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Incas are not an ancient civilization, but a relatively recent empire as a result of continued conquest from an initially small kingdom. Once in power, they formed a reasonably stable society where through central taxation, the empire is able to guarantee adequate food, water, and shelter in the event of localized disasters -- a feat no other Peruvian government has attained since (according to the author). However, the empire is not strong enough to withstand some external shocks in the for ...more
Nikhil Iyengar
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Never trust a Conquistador.

That's perhaps the most poignant lesson one can take home after reading this book. Reading about yet another great American civilisation being torn to shreds and annexed by the Spanish leaves an empty feeling in your chest. One reason this book deserves props for is that it humanises the characters of the story and allows the readers to be more open minded - the taciturn Francisco Pizarro feeling guilty and not just a coldhearted monster and Athahulapa being a cunning
Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rather than rehash the general timeline of the book, I thought I would include the more interesting things that caught my attention in the book.

1. "Although the popular myth is that conquistadors were professional soldiers sent out and financed by the Spanish king in order to extend the emerging Spanish Empire, nothing could have been further from the truth. In reality, the Spaniards who bought passages on ships headed for the New World formed a representative sample of their compatriots back ho
Bryan Higgs
Mar 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, anthropology
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 ...more
This is a thoroughly researched and easy to read assessment of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. MacQuarrie doesn't pull any punches, detailing the atrocities that the Spanish inflicted on the Incan population, while also emphasising that the Inca were themselves colonists. The Inca Empire as an EMPIRE existed for less than 100 years. Prior to their dramatic push for land, the Inca were predominantly a pastoral society. But one charismatic leader changed all that.

It's an interesting look
Mar 02, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. As the title indicates, this book tells the story of Pizarro's arrival in Peru and the Incas' initial acceptance of and then war against the conquistadors. With good reason the book is sympathetic to the Inca people; normally I really love and admire Spanish colonial architecture, but now that I know about how horribly the Spanish treated the native people, I'm going to have a much harder time appreciating the colonial sites when I go to Peru.

This was an engaging read that has given m
Abby Goldsmith
This book is amazing.

Lots of suspense, battles come to life, and an unflinching portrayal of the personalities involved. Some history books are just a dry string of textbook facts, but this one transported me to that otherworldly time and place, and I couldn't put it down. Even the bookend sections, about the 20th century hunt for lost Incan ruins, was written in a suspenseful manner. Most of this book is a retelling of the 16th century chronicles, shown from the point of view of both the Incan
Mar 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Historical fiction is not my usual cup of tea, but I read this to prepare myself for our upcoming trip to Machu Picchu. I really liked it, much to my surprise. The beginning and the end were a bit slow, as the author seemed interested in disecting the motives and methods of the explorers who discovered Machu Picchu and other Inca sites. (who cares?? I'm not a historian or an archeologist, so I didn't) But in the middle, where the Inca story and the Spanish conquest story were recreated, I was to ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learned so much about the Inca Empire and the Spanish conquest of Peru. I found my background lacking in this history and this book has whet my appetite to learn more.

MacQuarrie sets each scene vividly for the reader, so that I could imagine myself watching a documentary with full color pictures as I read. I would love to have the chance to visit in person.
Brian Pate
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, history
I listened to this while I travelled to Peru and visited Machu Picchu in August 2015. Fascinating (and at times heartbreaking) retelling of the Spanish conquest of Peru and twentieth-century rediscovery of key Inca ruins.
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I read this in tandem with The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire, and both made me feel kind of sick about imperialism/colonialism and the impacts on the native populations. It's well-written and interesting, even if I struggled to find a solid documentary on Netflix to view after reading this. ...more
Dec 03, 2019 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Meticulously researched and extremely detailed. Unfortunately a bit too detailed for my purposes, I'm finding my mind wandering and losing track of specific individuals. An excellent choice if you really want to understand the Inca empire and how the conquistadors worked on a daily basis. For a more general treatment of the topic of the colonial conquest of the americas I'd choose one of Galeano's books, either the history Open Veins of Latin America, or the narratives that make up the Memory of ...more
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked up "The Last Days of the Incas" after visiting Lima, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley for the first time. And man, I only wish I would've read this before going there – it will change completely your perspective on everything you see there.

The book is an exhilarating, highly-readable account of the Inca empire and its demise after a long, protracted war lasting more than four decades. MacQuarrie does a magnificent job at tracing the "encounter" of Pizarro and his first legion of Spaniards w
Apr 22, 2009 rated it liked it
The book jacket introduces Kim MacQuarrie as a filmmaker who lived among Peruvian Indians for 5 years. Both experiences color his writing, but mostly for the benefit of the reader. The history he relates of the interaction between the first Spanish conquistadors and the Incas reads like a Hollywood film. I can almost picture the marquee: Tom Cruise in the Last of the Incas....But history is almost always at least as exciting as fiction and this is certainly entertaining reading. The Spanish conq ...more
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-america
I read this book in 2010, because I wanted to learn about Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru. I read it again a mere five years later (which is a very uncommon thing for me to do) because I wanted to refresh my memory regarding what I had learned about the people he conquered. This time around I definitely paid more attention to the geography of Peru, among other things. Both times, however, it was a great read. It's rare that a book that covers a period that's centuries in the past comes ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
MacQuarrie is a great story teller, and he pulls you right in.

He makes these historical events read like a novel. Part of the appeal is his presentation of Manco Inca and the Pizarro brothers. The author helps you understand the characters and once you do, you become absorbed in their times and troubles. Even the battle scenes, from which I normally cringe, are compellingly written. The contrasts in technology, religion, customs and values of the Spanish and Inca culture are marvelously describe
Oct 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I was listening to it as an audio book, and I got really fed up with all the made up parts. There just so many sentences and paragraphed prefaced with: no doubt, perhaps, probably, doubtless, without a doubt. Those were mostly inserted thoughts about dialogue, intentions, motivations and emotions, but also actions. I prefer history books to show me what is known, and not what the author speculates about.
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audiobook
Sad, sad, episode in world history butall I could think about as I listened to this one was, what a great epic movie this would make. I would like to see some of those profits go back to the native communities though.
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Kim MacQuarrie is an award-winning author, a documentary filmmaker, and an anthropologist. He’s won multiple national Emmy awards for documentary films made in such disparate regions as Siberia, Papua New Guinea, and Peru. MacQuarrie is the author of four books on Peru and lived in that country for five years, exploring many of its hidden regions. During that time, MacQuarrie lived with a recently ...more

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“In a sense, New World conquest was about men seeking a way around one of life's basic rules - that human beings have to work for a living, just like the rest of the animal world. In Peru, as elsewhere in the Americas, Spaniards were not looking for fertile land that they could farm, they were looking for the cessation of their own need to perform manual labor. To do so, they needed to find large enough groups of people they could force to carry out all the laborious tasks necessary to provide them with the essentials of life: food, shelter, clothing, and, ideally, liquid wealth. Conquest, then, had little to do with adventure, but rather had everything to do with groups of men willing to do just about anything in order to avoid working for a living. Stripped down to its barest bones, the conquest of Peru was all about finding a comfortable retirement.” 8 likes
“You know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” THUCYDIDES, THE HISTORY OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR, 5TH CENTURY B.C.” 3 likes
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