A dramatic rethinking of the encounter between Montezuma and Hernando Cortés that completely overturns what we know about the Spanish conquest of the Americas
On November 8, 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés first met Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, at the entrance to the capital city of Tenochtitlan. This introduction—the prelude to the Spanish seizure of Mexico City and to European colonization of the mainland of the Americas—has long been the symbol of Cortés’s bold and brilliant military genius. Montezuma, on the other hand, is remembered as a coward who gave away a vast empire and touched off a wave of colonial invasions across the hemisphere.
But is this really what happened? In a departure from traditional tellings, When Montezuma Met Cortés uses “the Meeting”—as Restall dubs their first encounter—as the entry point into a comprehensive reevaluation of both Cortés and Montezuma. Drawing on rare primary sources and overlooked accounts by conquistadors and Aztecs alike, Restall explores Cortés’s and Montezuma’s posthumous reputations, their achievements and failures, and the worlds in which they lived—leading, step by step, to a dramatic inversion of the old story. As Restall takes us through this sweeping, revisionist account of a pivotal moment in modern civilization, he calls into question our view of the history of the Americas, and, indeed, of history itself.
A little much…
I was really excited to hear more history about this time period. But the author seemed embittered and threw everything he had at “re-writing the narrative.” I loved how much research he did; he is totally an expert on the subject. But he overwhelmed me with how many sources he would throw out there. It became noise after a while and was hard to stay engaged at times. I do appreciate the different perspective that he was trying to offer, but he seemed angry. I definitely have some great takeaways to view the whole ordeal differently, and I know that was his goal. I just wish the author didn’t make it so obvious that he was picking and choosing sources, interpreting liberally, and speaking out of both sides of his mouth when blaming Cortez in one moment but then retracting any credit in the next. Was Cortez in charge or not? You can’t have both….
Not that enjoyable of a read. Would have loved it to be about half the length.