The true history of the conquest of New Spain

by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, 1496-1584

Book, 2012



Call number

F1230 .D5442


Publisher Unknown


Vivid, powerful and absorbing, this is a first-person account of one of the most startling military episodes in history: the overthrow of Montezuma's doomed Aztec Empire by the ruthless Hernan Cortes and his band of adventurers. Bernal Díaz del Castillo, himself a soldier under Cortes, presents a fascinatingly detailed description of the Spanish landing in Mexico in 1520 and their amazement at the city, the exploitation of the natives for gold and other treasures, the expulsion and flight of the Spaniards, their regrouping and eventual capture of the Aztec capital.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Miro
Sometimes extraordinary events are recorded by a well placed participant. In this case, Bernal Diaz del Castillo (doubting his literary ability), wrote of the 16th century Spanish discovery and defeat of the Mexican empire in an account that is so compelling that it is difficult to put down.
The basic facts are not disputed and reveal the extraordinary military valour of Cortez and most of his men. He gives weight to existing tribal conflicts, the role of religious beliefs and also illustrates Cortez's manipulative cunning and great love of love of gold, even going as far as cheating his own men.… (more)
LibraryThing member lmichet
The most intense and exciting historical account I have ever read, and from a perspective I find unusual. As modern postcolonialists, we all look back on conquistadors with scorn and horror. But to get the point of view of a proud conquistador, a man who's actually really good about characterizing the mindset of the time, it unbelievably fascinating. Diaz writes in a perfectly ordinary and down-to-earth tone about killing hundreds, toppling governments, plotting secretly, smashing gods, and doing all sorts of absolutely wild and outrageous things. He writes about some things with regret, but about more things with a very satisfied tone, a back-in-those-days-you-would-never-have-guessed-how-magnificent-we-were tone. There's resentment and hatred for Cortes, but also unquestioning loyalty and admiration. There's an unusual attitude towards Montezuma-- the man they kept in a degrading state of imprisonment but respected like an uncle. There's an apocalyptic air about the whole affair: you can feel the sliminess-on-the-skin Diaz felt about watching this whole society crumble around him. And it's an action story, too: battles every other page, sacrifices, magnificent victories, harrowing losses, camaraderie, a Mayan princess, heaps of gold, marvellous characterizations of conquistadors and Aztec lords alike (you'll notice, though, as in Aztec society in general, the commoners are invisible), epic showdowns, legends, the whole thing. Everything seems so incredibly alive. But it's not just blind pride, either: Diaz has a complex relationship to his past that you get the sense he's trying to partially hide. He is very guilty about enslaving certain of the natives and he does seem to really admire the achievements of Aztec civilization, and is sad that they can no longer even be seen-- the temples are burned, the books destroyed, people like Montezuma reduced to puppets.

Anyway, if you like history AT ALL, please read this. It's an essential source when it comes to understanding the subjugation of native Mexico. It's also a damn good story. Read it in tandem with Broken Spears to get both sides of the story, native and Spanish.
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LibraryThing member browsers
This is the book (not this copy, but the Penguin paperback) that got me hooked on the history of the Aztecs and the conquest of Mexico. In fact, this book got me reading history books much more regularly. By far one of the most fascinating events in history, and one of the most interesting first-hand accounts written (even if Diaz wasn't even there, as some suppose!) This particular set is spectacular with uncut pages, decorations, illustrations, maps (plates, fold-outs, loose in pockets, and one portfolio of them), heavy paper, full cloth, etc.… (more)
LibraryThing member jpsnow
"And so we had morning Mass and headed out to conquer the savages for God and relieve them of their idolic gold." It's a great chronicle, written by a soldier and participant in Cortez's compaign to conquer Mexico. Bernal Diaz lived from 1492 to about 1580. His is the only chronicle written by a participant and arguably the most reliable, the others heavily criticized by him and others as modified for political purposes.… (more)
LibraryThing member kabouter
Intriguing novel (although it shouldn't be considered fiction), by one of Hernan Cortés' soldiers who tells the tale of the conquest of New-Spain (read: Mexico). If gives an image of the lifes of those conquistadores, and the quest for glory (and gold) by the soldiers and their superiors. Although the outcome is quite clear from the beginning it is a good read (albeit with a lot of repetitions in the text). That outcome is achieved partly because the Mexicans believed a people would come from where the sun rises and they would later rule them, but also because of the military strength of the Spaniards. It also shows the minds of those early conquistadores, they really thought what they did was good, they didn't think about the consequences... Enslaving indians, no problem, forcing catholicism upon them, no problem...… (more)
LibraryThing member dwhill
An absolutely amazing first-person account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish. A must read for anyone interested in the subject.
LibraryThing member ben_a
One of the most riveting narratives in all of history.

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