The conquistadors.

by Hammond Innes, 1913-

Book, 1969



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Publisher Unknown


This enthralling study which examines the impact of the Spaniards upon the Aztec and Inca worlds is dominated by the personalities involved, in particular Cortes and Montezuma. Their confrontation in the Aztec lake-city of Tenochtitlan is a moving drama of human conflict revealing the dilemma and the enigma of the Indians. It is a story of battles and voyages, full of strange episodes Cortes burning his ships, Pizarro drawing a line with his sword, saying "Gentlemen, this line represents toil, hunger, thirst, weariness, sickness" and daring them to cross it, and Atahualpa nursing his wound in the hot springs of Cajamarca and watching, with his army, the tiny band of Spanish adventurers descending the green slopes of the Andes."

User reviews

LibraryThing member keylawk
Looking at 50 years since the publication of this "historical" account of the unaccountable depravity of humanity, I can see that we rose from a pit, only to fall back into it. Society is dragged back into a bucket of rot by its most predatory crabs. Hammond Innes is a fiction-adventure writer, but
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is here demonstrating a granular grasp of history drawn from multiple sources.

By unfolding the Iberian dawn of the Spanish conquest of the Moors, remarkably repeated in the New World, Innes is able to explain the remarkable conquest of the Aztecs by Cortez, and the Inca by Pizarro. Also, he does not whitewash the native oppressions and cruelties--as for example, Las Casas, as a witness arriving before Cortes, was often apt to do because he could not forgive the hypocrisy of Christians.

Innes has the ability to bring "complete" persons--these often self-realized pretenders--into the light, giving little quarter in favor of truth. Except for "privilege"--he cannot seem to escape the presumptions of strapping manhood. In every case, he misses the opportunity to reveal to role of women, of illiterate soldiers, of the campesinos. One of the remarkable features of Latin America is that native populations managed to survive extraordinarily nasty religious superstitions, native tyrants, famine and plagues, systematic theft of everything of value at the hand of armed and deceitful monsters, and then within a few generations, completely rebuild their communities.

Hammond points out that after Cortes and Pizarro were killed, within a generation the Spanish colonies were ruled by "liberal" policies. Slavery, among other cruelties, was abolished. (In their day, for example, Bolivia and Argentina boasted some of the largest middle classes in the world. The feudal oligarchs did not darken the continents until fascism rose at the end of the 18th century.)
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LibraryThing member booktsunami
Quite an impressive book. As the title's about the conquistadores of the new world ...but really focussing only on Cortez and Pizzaro.I have read numerous histories of the conquest but this book seems very balanced in its approach and benefits from the use of some magnificent photos and
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illustrations. It also has a number of very useful maps. Innes, does not shy away from the violent nature of the conquests; nor does he fail to give credit to the role of local indian allies in the wars of conquest.
He also gives credit to the toughness of the Spanish soldiers themselves who put up with incredible hardships, disease, fear of the unknown, fighting at high altitudes against vastly superior numbers etc yet still managing to come out on top. Maybe it says something about Extremadura ...the land from which most were recruited.
He also gives some credit to the local indians and discusses the reasons for the success of the spanish against the locals; A mixture of luck...local civil wars and legends of conquerors coming whom they should not the doggedness and fighting spirit of the Spanish soldiers.
Innes tells a good story and the book is actually hard to put down. I spent a few years in Mexico and have always been fascinated by the history. Innes's book goes some considerable way to satisfying my curiosity about a major point in Mexican and South American history.
There are lots of interesting wrinkles such as the fact that Cortez could have set himself as an independent king of Mexico and Central America but his loyalty to the crown prevented hm from doing this. And in the end he paid dearly as the bureaucrats moved int to take control and to denounce him.
Happy to give the book 5 stars. I liked it.
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