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History of the Conquest of Mexico (Modern Library Classics) [Paperback]

By William H. Prescott (Author) & James Lockhart (Introduction by)
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Item description for History of the Conquest of Mexico (Modern Library Classics) by William H. Prescott & James Lockhart...

A definitive study of the ancient Aztec culture, which was defeated by the Spanish, includes accounts of the subsequent conflicts and settlements.

Publishers Description
"It is a magnificent epic," said William H. Prescott after the publication of "History of the Conquest of Mexico" in 1843. Since then, his sweeping account of Cortes's subjugation of the Aztec people has endured as a landmark work of scholarship and dramatic storytelling. This pioneering study presents a compelling view of the clash of civilizations that reverberates in Latin America to this day.
"Regarded simply from the standpoint of literary criticism, the "Conquest of Mexico" is Prescott's masterpiece," judged his biographer Harry Thurston Peck. "More than that, it is one of the most brilliant examples which the English language possesses of literary art applied to historical narration. . . . Here, as nowhere else, has Prescott succeeded in delineating character. All the chief actors of his great historic drama not only live and breathe, but they are as distinctly differentiated as they must have been in life. Cortes and his lieutenants are persons whom we actually come to know in the pages of Pres-cott. . . . Over against these brilliant figures stands the melancholy form of Montezuma, around whom, even from the first, one feels gathering the darkness of his coming fate. He reminds one of some hero of Greek tragedy, doomed to destruction and intensely conscious of it, yet striving in vain against the decree of an inexorable destiny. . . . Prescott] transmuted the acquisitions of laborious research into an enduring monument of pure literature."

"From the eBook edition."

Citations And Professional Reviews
History of the Conquest of Mexico (Modern Library Classics) by William H. Prescott & James Lockhart has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 1205
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 958

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Modern Library
Pages   1005
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8" Width: 5.2" Height: 1.7"
Weight:   2.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 4, 2001
Publisher   Modern Library
ISBN  0375758038  
ISBN13  9780375758034  

Availability  46 units.
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More About William H. Prescott & James Lockhart

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William Hickling Prescott, the renowned American historian who chronicled the rise and fall of the Spanish empire, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on May 4, 1796. His grandfather had commanded colonial forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolution; his father was a highly respected judge and philanthropist. Prescott was tutored in Latin and Greek by the rector of Trinity Church in Boston and entered Harvard in 1811. In a bizarre accident, Prescott was blinded in the left eye by a crust of bread thrown in a dining-hall fracas. He abandoned plans to study law but went on to graduate in 1814 having earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa. While traveling abroad the following year Prescott temporarily lost the sight in his right eye. With his vision permanently impaired, he aspired to the life of gentleman-scholar. Prescott launched a career as a man of letters in 1821 with an essay on Byron that appeared in the North American Review. Over the next two decades he contributed regularly to the prestigious Boston literary journal. His most important articles and reviews, including seminal pieces on the theory and practice of historical composition, were later collected in Biographical and Critical Miscellanies (1845) and Critical and Historical Essays (1850).
Under the influence of George Ticknor, a friend and mentor who taught European literature at Harvard, Prescott began learning Spanish in 1824. Engrossed by the history of Spain, he committed himself to tracing its development into a world power. Employing secretaries to read him manuscripts sent from Spanish archives, Prescott set about writing a work of sound scholarship that would also interest a general audience. A phenomenal memory allowed him to compose whole chapters in his mind during morning horseback rides. Later he recorded them on paper using a noctograph, a special stylus for the blind. More than a decade later he finished The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic (1837), which enjoyed tremendous critical and popular success on both sides of the Atlantic.
Prescott's fame gained him entree into Spanish intellectual circles, greatly facilitating research on his next book, History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843), a sweeping account of Cortes's subjugation of the Aztec people. -Regarded simply from the standpoint of literary criticism, the Conquest of Mexico is Prescott's masterpiece, - judged his biographer Harry Thurston Peck. -More than that, it is one of the most brilliant examples which the English language possesses of literary art applied to historical narration. . . . [Prescott] transmuted the acquisitions of laborious research into an enduring monument of pure literature.- Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin agreed: -The enduring interest in Prescott's Conquest of Mexico comes less from his engaging survey of Aztec civilization than from his genius for the epic. . . . Though Prescott has been called the nation's first 'scientific historian' for his use of manuscript sources, he would live on as a creator of literature.-
Prescott completed his pioneering study of Spanish exploits in the New World with the History of the Conquest of Peru (1847), a vivid chronicle of Pizarro's tumultuous overthrow of the Inca empire. -The Conquest of Peru represents an author's triumph over his materials, - observed Donald G. Darnell, one of the historian's several biographers. -Prescott exploits to the fullest any opportunities for dramatic effects that history might provide him. . . . The description of the Inca civilization, particularly its wealth, the precise explanation of the cause of the conflict between the conquerors, and the depiction of the Spanish character--these together with the careful research, the sheer abun dance of anecdotes, and the exploitation of primary materials all contribute to the history's continuing popularity.-
Prescott devoted his final years to chronicling the decline of the Spanish empire. He published The Life of Charles the Fifth after His Abdication (1856), a continuation of William Robertson's The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles the Fifth (1769), but only managed to finish the first three volumes of The History of the Reign of Philip the Second (1855-58). William H. Prescott died of a stroke at his home in Boston on January 29, 1859. In assessing his achievements, Daniel J. Boorstin wrote: -One of Prescott's greatest feats as a 'scientific' historian was to depict the scenes of his drama so vividly without ever having been there--for he never visited Spain, Mexico, or Peru. . . . Prescott created from the rawest of raw material, laboring under physical handicaps and displaying a single-minded courage with few precedents in the annals of literature. . . . He had to discover the landscape, conceive new heroes, and mark their own paths through time. The story of how he made his histories was itself a kind of epic.-

William H. Prescott has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modern Library Classics (Paperback)

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > Central America > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > Central America
3Books > Subjects > History > Americas > General
4Books > Subjects > History > Americas > Mexico
5Books > Subjects > History > World > General
6Books > Subjects > History > World > Medieval
7Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
8Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction

Reviews - What do customers think about History of the Conquest of Mexico (Modern Library Classics)?

A great historical book  Dec 3, 2007
Prescott's book is a must to read for everyone interested in the history of Mexico. The account of the conquest is very detailed,obviously product of an extensive research and yet extremely readable. Among the admirable qualities of Prescott as a historical narrator is his attempt at staying objective. He uses previous accounts of the events in question but always keeps in mind that history is written by the victors. He tries to side neither with the conquerors nor with the Aztec, givig credit to the latter for their valor and yet underlining the inevitability of their downfall.
Prescott's book is a great history, yet reads as easy as fiction. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Mexico!
The Wonder of the Spanish Conquests Brought to Life!  Jun 14, 2007
Prescott was one of the first historians to credit the Native Americans with the founding of the ancient American civilizations; rather than some lost white race or wandering tribe of Hebrews.

Maya explorer John Lloyd Stephens was another famous person from the 1840s who realized that ancient American civilization arose independently in the New World. When it is considered that almost everyone else was pointing to lost white races as the originators of these civilizations, the vision of these two men is remarkable.

Nevertheless, Prescott's "Conquest of Mexico" and "Conquest of Peru" (bound together in the "Modern Library Giant" edition) are stunning as historical narratives based on original sources. What an achievement by a man who was half blind!

I would rank these two volumes as the two most captivating books I ever read. The audacity and bravery (and cruelty) of the Spanish leaves your mouth agape.

Read these two histories and relive the wonder of the Conquests of Mexico and Peru. Ten stars!
One of the great histories written... ever  Oct 26, 2005
Wow. I studied History and Literature at Harvard... and they never introduced me to this book! Shame on Harvard. Prescott is a true fusion of history and literature. Built on deep reading and comprehensive research of original sources and shot through with critical insights blended with fairness, Prescott's work is so different from much modern history (which is the manipulation of facts to satisfy politcal agendas).
Gosh, I know Prescott is disavowed/not read because of the discrimination against dead white males. But he's just flat-out better than the historian practitioners of today.
A Great History  Jul 10, 2005
William H. Prescott was nearly blind for most of his life and never visited Mexico. Nevertheless, his work contains vivid, almost cinematic, descriptions of landscapes, cities and battles. It is dramatic and entertaining in the manner of great imaginative literature. Surely there has never been a story like that of Cortes and Montezuma and the destruction of the Aztec empire. Here is the collision of late medieval Europe with a civilization closely resembling that of the ancient Egyptians. This story of one race subjugating another should put the reader in mind of the recent conquest of Iraq. Nothing fundamental has changed in the past five hundred years, except that we have no Prescott to tell the tale.
One of Our Greatest Works of Historical Art  Oct 15, 2003
This book is one of the greatest works of world literature, but it can be a deeply disturbing read. By turns, the heart races in outrage and sinks in sorrow at the retelling of the events surrounding Cortes's conquest of the Aztec Empire from 1519 to 1521. There has seldom been an event in history with greater drama, greater conflict, greater peril, and greater moral consequence. Though the conquest is not a turning point in world history, its events can help us fathom many of the most pressing and profound moral and political issues we face down to this day. Prescott tells the story of the conquest superbly, with depth, precision, elegance, sympathy, drama, and emotional power. There are few prose stylists as fine as William Hickling Prescott in the history of English literature, and this is not known widely enough. Many a swollen six-volume history from centuries past has become the province of scholars; few are the classic histories that still can command the attention of lay readers. This is one of them. Many lay readers and scholars testify that this book has lost none of its savor or substance. Prescott emulated Gibbon, that marvel of magnificence in English prose, but thankfully Prescott's style isn't quite as magnificently glorious as the historian's who laid out the momentous decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Prescott's prose stands a bit lower on the register than Gibbon's heroic grandeur; yet Prescott achieves a depth of perception, elegance, and insight that is matched by few writers in all of English literature. As with Gibbon, Prescott's sentences and paragraphs stand as works of art; they not are to be hurried through for the story only, but pondered with an expectation of almost unbounded discovery. Also like Gibbon, Prescott was a master of the subtle, sly aside and the telling tangent.

At the center of Prescott's story is the enthralling conquistador Hernan Cortes, that extraordinarily daring captain of the expedition to conquer the Aztecs; in two years, Cortes led a preposterously small band of Spanish soldiers across the Empire and succeeded, highly improbably, in toppling it. Is this one of the key moments of history? For Central America, certainly, but for world history probably not. Nonetheless, it is one of the most riveting stories of early modern times, and you should know it well. Moreover, our evaluations of the actions and ideas of Cortes and his men can help us understand what it means to be good, to toil as servants of the good, and to create a good society. It is easy to get furious with Cortes's band as we read of them fulfilling their audacious mission of conquest. It is easier still to morally condemn them. It could be that they deserve condemnation. But perhaps the matter deserves a very close look, and Prescott can help us examine and judge their actions better than any historian ever. In my view, there are three crucial events that demand our account: (1) the massacre at Cholula, (2) the Noche Triste, an escape of the Spaniards from Tenochtitlan at mid-conquest, and (3) the brutal siege of Tenochtitlan in the final act. Through these and the other events of the conquest, Prescott can guide us in evaluating our principles of morality, government, war, liberty, and religion, as well as the meaning of life and society. This book is a classic now, having been written some 150 years ago. Many histories and studies of the conquest have been written up to the present, but none matches Prescott's in the power and depth of its insights into human nature and society, and none matches it in the beauty and power of its prose. Prescott has much to say about why people behave as they do, about the power of religion, the thirst for gold and glory, the temptations of ambition, the rationalization of crimes and sin, and much, much more. Surely by now you realize that I cannot recommend this great history highly enough. It remains in print in several editions, which is a testament to its enduring appeal both to scholars and readers, and it is most deserving of all the attention it still receives.


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