Restall's book, "Seven myths of the Spanish Conquest," is very useful in getting rid of all the pseudo-scholarly ideas about the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. I grew up in that country and found the Conquest as presented in a conservative school system incomprehensible. Many years down the road I began to collect books and try to make sense out of this historical fact. Restall's book was a brightly burning light as he exploded myth after myth. Cortés as the exceptional man (my reading of history classified him as an extraordinarly manipulative man and one lacking both conscious and consistency.) Restall explains Cortés deeds in such a way that they make sense in the greater historical context. He proceeds to explode the myth of the King's Army (Conquistadores), the "White" conquistador (somehow white skin makes one better or maybe a god?) The myth of completion... no, the Conquest did not take place in two years... the Mayab and northern mexico were not conquered until the 1800 and 1930 respectively (that's the Nayares for those who wonder), and the myth of Malinche as a communicator or mis-communicator. With the help of this book I came to a much better understanding of the mechanisms and the importance and lack thereof of the many players in the conquest.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-07-01 According to historical consensus, the Spanish conquest of the New World was a cataclysm in which superior European technology and organization overwhelmed Native American civilizations. In this daring revisionist critique, Penn State historian Restall describes a far more complex process in which Indians were central participants on both sides of the struggle. Far from regarding the Spaniards as gods, Restall argues, Indians offered a variety of shrewd, pragmatic responses to the invaders while advancing their own political agendas. Indeed, given that the conquistadors were vastly outnumbered by their Indian allies, the Conquest was in many respects a civil war between natives. Nor did Indian societies fall apart at one blow: independent Mayan polities, for example, persisted into the 19th century. Even under Spanish rule, Indians continued to live in self-governing communities, where they maintained their own languages, cultures and leaders who had considerable clout with the colonial administration. Drawing on Spanish, Native American and West African accounts of the Conquest, academic studies and even Hollywood movies, Restall examines the paradigm of European triumph and Indian "desolation" as it evolved from the conquistador's self-serving narratives to contemporary interpretations by such writers as Jared Diamond and Kirkpatrick Sale. Rejecting the implicit juxtaposition of "subhuman" Indians with "superhuman" Europeans, Restall asserts instead that, through war and epidemic, native societies retained much of their autonomy and cohesion, and "turn[ed] calamity into opportunity." Restall's provocative analysis, wide-ranging scholarship and lucid prose make this a stimulating contribution to the debate on one of history's great watersheds. Photos. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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