Hernando de Soto: A Savage Quest in the Americas / Edition 1

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This is the story of a legendary expedition across four thousand miles of the future United States, led by an explorer searching for an illusionary empire of gold. Formerly the second-in-command in Francisco Pizarro’s conquest of the Incas in 1531, Hernando de Soto arrived in the country he called La Florida in 1539, leading a glittering, armored Renaissance-era army of six hundred men on the first major exploration of North America. Obsessed with finding a second Inca empire, he instead encountered the Mississippians, a sophisticated culture of mound and city builders, warriors, artisans, and diplomats whose society collapsed after the Spaniards’ destructive march through their territory. Unable to find his golden country, Soto pushed deeper into the wilderness, ravaged by exhaustion, starvation, and incessant warfare with the Mississippians until he died and was secretly buried in the Mississippi River, which he is credited (wrongly) with discovering.

"An admirable tour de force that will need to be consulted by future biographers of the Spanish conquerer. Impeccable scholarship and documentation"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ruthless conqueror of Central America and Peru's Inca empire, the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto is sometimes portrayed as a saintly bearer of civilization, while other biographers see a brutal butcher. To freelancer Duncan, this son of an impoverished Spanish squire-who became fabulously wealthy by looting gold and selling or working to death thousands of slaves in Panama and Nicaragua-was, above all, a gambler and insatiably ambitious megalomaniac. From 1539 to 1543, de Soto and his army of 600 men trekked 4000 miles through 10 future Southeastern U.S. states, seeking a nonexistent second Inca empire laden with gold. Instead they stumbled upon the Mississippians, a sophisticated culture of city- and mound-building natives. The Spaniards' systematic plunder, murder, warfare and enslavement of the Indians brought the collapse of their civilization. De Soto died of fever in 1542 at the age of 42; more than half his men were killed by the Mississippians. Drawing on expedition logs, colonial archival manuscripts, eyewitness accounts and recent archaeological finds, Duncan strips away decades of mythmaking to plumb the conquistador mentality in a vibrant, gripping biography. Illustrated. (Jan.)
Patricia Galloway
Anyone who wants to investigate Soto's life and works now will want to begin with Duncan's book.
—Patricia Galloway, Georgia Historical Quarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806129778
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Edition description: OKALHOMA P
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 1,271,133
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

David Ewing Duncan is a writer for several national publications, a special producer and reporter for ABC's Nightline, and author three other books. He researched and traced the path of Soto's expedition for more than seven years.

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