by Michael Wood
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Conquistadors by Michael Wood

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520236912
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 11/15/2002
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 656,471
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About 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.