Conquistadors

Conquistadors

3.2 5
by Michael Wood
     
 

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Following in the footsteps of the greatest Spanish adventurers, Michael Wood retraces the path of the conquistadors from Amazonia to Lake Titicaca, and from the deserts of North Mexico to the heights of Machu Picchu. As he travels the same routes as Hernán Cortés, and Francisco and Gonzalo Pizarro, Wood describes the dramatic events that accompanied the

Overview

Following in the footsteps of the greatest Spanish adventurers, Michael Wood retraces the path of the conquistadors from Amazonia to Lake Titicaca, and from the deserts of North Mexico to the heights of Machu Picchu. As he travels the same routes as Hernán Cortés, and Francisco and Gonzalo Pizarro, Wood describes the dramatic events that accompanied the epic sixteenth-century Spanish conquest of the Aztec and
Inca empires. He also follows parts of Orellana's extraordinary voyage of discovery down the Amazon and of Cabeza de Vaca's arduous journey across America to the Pacific. Few stories in history match these conquests for sheer drama, endurance, and distances covered, and Wood's gripping narrative brings them fully to life.

Wood reconstructs both sides of the conquest, drawing from sources such as Bernal Diaz's eyewitness account, Cortés's own letters, and the Aztec texts recorded not long after the fall of Mexico. Wood's evocative story of his own journey makes a compelling connection with the sixteenth-century world as he relates the present-day customs, rituals, and oral traditions of the people he meets. He offers powerful descriptions of the rivers, mountains, and ruins he encounters on his trip, comparing what he has seen and experienced with the historical record. A wealth of stunning photographs support the text, drawing the reader closer to the land and its people.

As well as being one of the pivotal events in history, the Spanish conquest of the Americas was one of the most cruel and devastating. Wood grapples with the moral legacy of the European invasion and with the implications of an episode in history that swept away civilizations, religions, and ways of life. The stories in Conquistadors are not only of conquest, heroism, and greed, but of changes in the way we see the world, history and civilization, justice and human rights.

Editorial Reviews

Retracing the path of conquistadores Cortés and Pizarro, author-documentarian Michael Wood re-creates the double drama of discovery and culture clash of their journeys. Stunning color photographs and Wood's personal musings place these 16th-century conquests into the context of our own experience.
Baton Rouge Advocate
Light, but not lightweight, Wood's companion book is a good stand-alone work and doesn't need the television show to be enjoyed.
Houston Chronicle
A handsome, lucidly written narrative of events that were, for the most part, a triumph of greed, brutality and blood.
Gene Brucker
This is historical narrative of a very high quality. The prose is lucid, the descriptive episodes powerfully drawn. Wood describes fairly and sensitively the vast gulf that separated these Bronze Age [Aztec and Inca] cultures from the Western behemoth that overwhelmed and destroyed them, stressing in particular the near total inability of each society to comprehend the mores and values of the other.
New York Times
A good deal of extra history can be found in Mr. Wood's illustrated companion book.
ForeWord
This impressively illustrated companion volume to a [PBS] TV series on the destruction of the Aztec and Inca civilizations and related explorations is necessarily one of high drama and telling contrasts. It is also broad-based and balanced, a powerful corrective to the false glamour so often built around Cortes, Pizarro and their colleagues in genocide.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520236912
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
11/15/2002
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
154,444
Product dimensions:
7.32(w) x 9.44(h) x 0.69(d)

Read an Excerpt

FROM THE PROLOGUE:

Just before 3 a.m., we gulp down several cups of hot coca tea and then each of us carefully packs a ball of coca leaves inthe cheek. Outside the ground is white with frost. It is bitterly cold, and we cram on every available layer of clothing. A deep breath, then on with the rucksack. Hieronymo, the jolly horse-handler, has four helpers to carry the heavy gear, the tripod and boxes, though we have cut the shooting kit down to the minimum. I take the rucksack for my cameras, and soon regret it. Any extra weight becomes a struggle.

FROM THE BOOK:

The Incas had never seen horses before, and the Spanish, realizing that many of the king's entourage were frightened of the animals, made a deliberately threatening gesture to unnerve them—just as they had done in the first exchanges with Montezuma. Hernando de Soto rode right up, spurring his horse so close to Atahuallpa's face that its breath tousled the crimson tassels on the Inca's royal headband. Atahuallpa, however, was unmoved and unblinking, and ordered those who had panicked to be killed. Such lack of courage was demeaning in the staff of a great king. Atahuallpa knew how to be a king.

Author Biography: Michael Wood has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, and filmmaker, and is author of several highly acclaimed books, including Domesday (1986), In Search of the Dark Ages (1987), Legacy (1995), In Search of the Trojan War (California, 1998), and In Search of England (California, 2000). He has over sixty documentary films to his name, among them Legacy, Saddam's Killing Fields, and In the Footsteps of Alexander The Great, for which he also wrote the accompanying book.

Meet the Author

Michael Wood has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, and filmmaker, and is author of several highly acclaimed books, including Domesday (1986),
In Search of the Dark Ages
(1987), Legacy (1995),
In Search of the Trojan War
(California, 1998), and
In Search of England
(California, 2000). He has over sixty documentary films to his name, among them Legacy, Saddam's Killing Fields, and
In the Footsteps of Alexander The Great,
for which he also wrote the accompanying book.

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Conquistadors 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
This was the book that really ignited my passion and interest in New World exploration. Woods combines contemporary quotes and descriptions with his own modern-day journeys in detailing the adventures of four seminal Spanish explorers - Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizzaro, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, and Francisco Orellana. This book was written as a companion piece to Woods' PBS documentary, but it stands alone fine without the video. While recounting the adventurers and their adventures, Woods (and his crew) follow parts of their routes and finds connections with each journey. While this device isn't all that unique, it provides a very modern connection with these distant stories. It's a reminder that these events didn't actually occur very far away in either time or place. He blends the historical with the modern and all of the stories read very smoothly. Accompanying each tale are a series of color images - historical artwork, as well as photos from the trips that followed in the footsteps of these conquerers. The book isn't intended to dive deeply into each adventure. But the detail is more than adequate and certainly whetted my desire to learn more. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Marvelous presentation with magnificent pictures, illustrations and ample acknowledgements. The chosen events and polished narrative are quick to give a solem first impression. Disappointingly, the book is deprived of impartialitty and charmingly represents the preconcevied concept of Spanish Explorers and Conquistadores, harvested from the sizure of truth by the Black Legend and the sad view of most Native American groups. The book achieves little academically!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was very well written and informative. Obviously it can't tell the full story in only a few hundred pages, but it does give you a view into a world that was utterly destroyed before much of it's history was recorded. It also shows how only a few hundred men made a trememdous impact upon civilizations that ruled millions. Very interesting book indeed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is written with great feeling and sincerity. Where one would commend the Spanish for converting a barbaric people to Christianity as a superior alternative to human sacrifice and sun-god worship, one must also realize the bloody tapestry of Christianity's history with it's horrifying machines of torture. The author writes with compassion on behalf of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, who were overtaken by a force whose technology was eons ahead of the indian's, who were still in the bronze age. I doubt if Jesus wanted his namesake forced down the throats of a civilization at sword point, and then loot all their riches and subjugate them to slavery and submission. Aside from all this, the book has astonishing color photographs and the author pays tribute to Hernan Cortez as a jugggernaut in the eye of history's storm, who sealed the fate of a contitnent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although this book contains beautiful pictures, the content glazes over the high exent of human sacrifices committed by the Aztec empire (thousands per year). For some reason, Wood and those of his bias, believe it was wrong for the Spanish to put an end to such horrible practices where human hearts were ripped out of the still living vitims and eaten. The reader is supposed to believe that human sacrifice was just an aspect of Aztec 'culture'. Who were the Spanish to criticize? It's clear that the Spanish have always been subject to criticism for their expansion into the New World...perhaps because of their Catholicism. Did abuses occur, sure. But let's at least be honest on both sides of the issue.