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Conquistadors – Michael Wood

17 Jun

199957.mainThe whole story remains incredible to anyone who has not experienced it first hand.  Indeed, it seems to overshadow all the deeds of famous people in the past, no matter how heroic, and to silence all talk of other wonders of the world. – Bartolome de las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, 1542

Having missed the series three times purposefully, so it wouldn’t spoil the book for me – I’m just that sort of person – I absolutely loved this and still do now that I flick through its pages, last opened in 2001 sometime. As I have probably said in a review somewhere before, the BBC may have many faults, mainly to do with its extremely top heavy management hierarchy and (mostly) terribly banal programmes but for all that, it does produce a good book.

Conquistadors has all the things you would expect in a book that accompanies a TV series, clear explanatory text that isn’t dumbed down, full colour, highly detailed pictures (I’m referring to the hardback edition here) and a wealth of information that makes you want to explore the world and its history all over again.

Starting with a brief bit on the discovery of the New World, Michael Wood’s lively narrative swiftly transports us to the action of conquering, greed, ignorance and general slaughter that all culminated in great civilisations being decimated to the eternal shame of history.

Set to the back drop of such wondrous places as lake Titicaca, Macchu Picchu, The Andes, Tenochtitlan et al it is easy to see why so many people still fall in love with the exotic and fascinating stories and rumours of lost cities still out there.  Although a bit dated I derive the same pleasure from this wonderful cartoon The Mysterious Cities of Gold

for those who love an epic journey and feel like you have lost a little of the wonderment of a child, you can’t go far wrong with this.  I’m still a little gutted whenever I finish the journey, no matter how many times I travel the road.

All the famous players are here of course, but what the book does well is to add the emotive use of eye-witness testimonies from the archives, the Spanish journeys down the Amazon are stand out moments for the sheer horror and depravity that was resorted to.  These accounts from the time really allow the insanity and the confusion of the time to come to the fore.  It makes a world changing event more intense in its retelling.

With such a huge topic to cover and a finite number of pages to do it in, Wood does a good job with not just the historical side but also the ramifications on the modern world of the actions showing how the fall out is still felt today and arguing that the actions of those few men were the start of the Globalisation that is, for good or bad, our world today.

As I read this back when I was circa 19, I’m not sure how much this will satisfy the lust of a big history buff, as being made for TV, it does just tell its story and sticks to the facts, with some emotive diversions into the eyes of the people of the time and brings the uncomfortable and harsh realities home to us.  However to people looking for an overall view of the main players’ actions and what actually happened, the motivations of the Spaniards and the collapse of empires at the behest of a handful of men, this is a great book for getting a grounding.

For a fuller and more comprehensive history of the conquering of Mexico and a look at both the Aztec and Spanish cultures in-depth then I would suggest picking up a copy of this weighty tome, The Conquest of Mexico.

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14 Comments

Posted by on 17/06/2013 in History

 

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14 responses to “Conquistadors – Michael Wood

  1. Penny L Howe

    17/06/2013 at 20:12

    Excellent review SteJ. I haven’t read this book and will now procure same, so I can read it. This is the type of book I really enjoy reading. Thank you for the information. A great write up! 🙂

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    • StetotheJ

      17/06/2013 at 20:20

      If it is not to pricey, I will send it over, add it to ‘the’ collection. The hardback has all the lavish photos in, he’s prolific with his other stand outs (for me) being The Story of England, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great and in Search of the trojan War.

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      • Penny L Howe

        17/06/2013 at 20:28

        Thank you SteJ, if it is, no worries. I go through phases where I’ll notice a book I’ve missed by this or that Author. I look forward to an enjoyable read when I have the opportunity to read this one! 🙂

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        • StetotheJ

          17/06/2013 at 20:33

          I am sure it will get to you at some point, remind me if I forget though, for I tend to lose track of all the things I promise to do for people.

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  2. Alastair

    17/06/2013 at 20:18

    When I was younger, there was another member of my family. To save confusion – this person is still part of the rest of the family, just not mine. This other member had a book that I used to pick up occasionally and try to read without being battered for doing so, I would read the odd bits. I wanted to do history at school because the book, The Conquistadors, intrigued me. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you whether the book was a novel or otherwise. This is the book http://amzn.to/13VfOUI – I do remember images of Aztecs and Incas that stuck in my mind.

    There’s a grammatical error in this part

    All the famous players are here of course, but what the book does well is to add the emotive use of eye-witness testimonies from the archives, the Spanish journeys down the Amazon are stand out moments for the sheer horror and depravity that was resorted too. These accounts from the time really allow the insanity and the confusion of the time to come to the fore. It makes a world changing event more intense in its retelling.

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    • StetotheJ

      17/06/2013 at 20:32

      Error amended, this speed writing doesn’t lend itself to me much, perhaps I shouldn’t be skim editing my posts. Thanks for pointing it out, I do get obsessive about these things if and when I notice.

      The books sounds like history. They civilisations and the mysteries are sources of endless musings and rmantic fantasies. History is a noble subject. Have you picked the book up since at all?

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  3. Bumba

    17/06/2013 at 21:57

    Fine book review. I may check this one out. Hadn’t heard about it earlier. That’s right. I’m out of touch, or more correctly out in left field (american baseball expression). So your review is prompting me to read this book. Thanks.

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    • StetotheJ

      18/06/2013 at 19:07

      I always wondered where that phrase came from. Always glad to get people into a new book, perhaps I should get back to doing that more often as that was the point of la blog.

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  4. readinpleasure

    20/06/2013 at 17:39

    Fine review, StetotheJ 🙂 I had read a little bit of the Aztec and Spanish cultures in relation to the fall of Mexico in the book Montezuma’s Daughter by Sir Rider Haggard, a book lined up as a re-read for the Classic club challenge

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    • StetotheJ

      20/06/2013 at 19:22

      I hadn’t heard of that…yay more new books to explore. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the reread.

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