Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan

Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan

by Hugh Thomas
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Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan by Hugh Thomas

From one of the greatest historians of the Spanish world, here is a fresh and fascinating account of Spain’s early conquests in the Americas. Hugh Thomas’s magisterial narrative of Spain in the New World has all the characteristics of great historical literature: amazing discoveries, ambition, greed, religious fanaticism, court intrigue, and a battle for the soul of humankind.

Hugh Thomas shows Spain at the dawn of the sixteenth century as a world power on the brink of greatness. Her monarchs, Fernando and Isabel, had retaken Granada from Islam, thereby completing restoration of the entire Iberian peninsula to Catholic rule. Flush with success, they agreed to sponsor an obscure Genoese sailor’s plan to sail west to the Indies, where, legend purported, gold and spices flowed as if they were rivers. For Spain and for the world, this decision to send Christopher Columbus west was epochal—the dividing line between the medieval and the modern.

Spain’s colonial adventures began inauspiciously: Columbus’s meagerly funded expedition cost less than a Spanish princess’s recent wedding. In spite of its small scale, it was a mission of astounding scope: to claim for Spain all the wealth of the Indies. The gold alone, thought Columbus, would fund a grand Crusade to reunite Christendom with its holy city, Jerusalem.

The lofty aspirations of the first explorers died hard, as the pursuit of wealth and glory competed with the pursuit of pious impulses. The adventurers from Spain were also, of course, curious about geographical mysteries, and they had a remarkable loyalty to their country. But rather than bridging earth and heaven, Spain’s many conquests bore a bitter fruit. In their search for gold, Spaniards enslaved “Indians” from the Bahamas and the South American mainland. The eloquent protests of Bartolomé de las Casas, here much discussed, began almost immediately. Columbus and other Spanish explorers—Cortés, Ponce de León, and Magellan among them—created an empire for Spain of unsurpassed size and scope. But the door was soon open for other powers, enemies of Spain, to stake their claims.
Great men and women dominate these pages: cardinals and bishops, priors and sailors, landowners and warriors, princes and priests, noblemen and their determined wives.

Rivers of Gold is a great story brilliantly told. More significant, it is an engrossing history with many profound—often disturbing—echoes in the present.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804152143
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/20/2013
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 720
Sales rank: 24,609
File size: 20 MB
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About the Author

HUGH THOMAS is the author of numerous histories, including The Spanish Civil War, for which he won the Somerset Maugham Award, Conquest, and The Slave Trade. His A History of the World won him the Arts Council Prize for History. Made a Lord in 1981, Lord Thomas was educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne.

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Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
lrg More than 1 year ago
Being of Hispanic descent, I was drawn to this book for insight into both Spanish history and how the American continents were explored and settled: the human drama, the innovations, and the circumstances surrounding each event. It's facsinating to see how all of these factors came together to produce the very beginning of New World history as it has come to be known. The trials, tribulations, and sheer luck of both Columbus and Magellan (to take just two examples) have inspired me to read more into their individual accomplishments and challenges (I've posted two recent publications that I recommend).

The reason I've given this book 3 stars, however, is because the sheer density of the information provided causes the book to drag. It is by no means a thrilling read. I wouldn't go so far as to calling it a reference or textbook, but it is close. Do not pick up this book expecting a action-packed beachside summer read, but rather a detailed description of historical events.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Columbus' voyages as never told before. Should be required textbook for America/Latin America history!
rb1972 More than 1 year ago
This book is totally fascinating and keeps you fixed to it thrue the reading . This is a must for anyone iterested in hispanic history and the discovery of the conquistadores
Beirut768 More than 1 year ago
It takes you back in time and you feel you are transfixed and spellbound by irresistible well-described and documented events.

You will discover that the people who immigrated to what is now USA and Canada, have decided to stay for good, whereas those who went to South America only sought Gold which they brought back home (to Spain and Portugal), when in power.

You will also discover that those who decided to 'stay for good', although ruled by politicians of indifferent and competitive stature, were not lacking the supreme quality needed at the time - the courage and the quest for adventure.

Despite myriads of challenges, they preferred to hold fast to their adopted new 'Home Countries' by encouraging their people to follow their steps and migrate.

North America was different.
It was approached in an illusion. The morality of the occupants declined that no obstacle was interposed to personal hatred and the bulk was oblivious to the gravity of cannibals of 'Cariban' origin.

Perhaps one drawback is this: The book gives us the impression that the ethnic population was virtually 'robbed'.