Conquistadors -

Michael Wood

Published by Blackstone Audio, 2013
ISBN 10: 1624602541 / ISBN 13: 9781624602542
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Synopsis: 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 Hernan Cortes, 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, Cortes'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.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.

Review: First the Trojan War, then the eras of Alexander the Great and King Arthur. Now, in this companion volume to the BBC/PBS television series, the indefatigable writer-filmmaker Michael Wood turns his lens and pen on the restless, sometimes homicidal men who established Spain's empire in the Americas.

"The conquest opened up the world," Wood writes, "marking the beginnings of a globalization which was not only commercial, but also ideological and philosophical, a remaking of mental horizons no less than a redrawing of physical geography." Grand themes all, but Wood is less interested in sweeping statements than in exploring the particular circumstances surrounding the careers of Spain's freebooter-warriors. Following in their footsteps, Wood takes his readers first to the dusty, bleak Spanish province of Estremadura, which gave rise to a remarkable generation of conquerors, hungry for land and wealth and well schooled in the arts of war. One of those men, Hernán Cortés, was also schooled in law--or so his contemporaries thought--and he was able to turn a talent for fighting and learned disputation into a great personal fortune made first in Cuba, then in Mexico, which he won not so much with weaponry but with great cunning. Another, Francisco Pizarro--a distant cousin of Cortés--recruited a semiprivate army to capture the great Inca empire, relying on force more than guile. Wood also follows the paths of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and Francisco Orellana, accidental wanderers who helped open the interiors of North and South America to conquest. His latter-day, low-tech journeys underscore the difficulties the conquistadors faced in their time, and they help readers appreciate the sheer scale of their often bloody achievements. The story of the conquest, Wood writes, "never wearies in the retelling," and he proves it in this accessible, literate, and lively book. --Gregory McNamee

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Title: Conquistadors -
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Publication Date: 2013
Book Condition: BRAND NEW

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