Seven Myths Of The Spanish Conquest

927 words - 4 pages

Chip BothmannHIST 1052Book ReviewMatthew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish ConquestNew York, Oxford University Press, 20033 pages, 889 wordsMyths of the Spanish Conquest is broken into seven chapters, each dedicated to a different myth or mis-conception regarding the Spanish conquest. In debunking these myths, Matthew Restall works with three themes regarding the conquest. First, that the European discovery of the Americas was one of the greatest events in human history. Second, that the conquest was the achievement of "a few great men," which he subsequently describes as "a handful of adventurers." These two themes lead to a third theme, or question. "If history's greatest event - the European discovery and conquest of the Americas - was achieved by a mere "handful of adventurers," how did they do it?"One common answer to this question is, "because they were exceptionally great men." The "theory of exceptional men" paints the most well known of the Spaniards - Columbus and Cortes - as "larger than life characters," who "still enjoy extraordinary name recognition almost a half a millennium after their deaths. This theory credits the courage, audacity and brilliance of each man as reasons for success in both reaching the Americas and conquering the Mexica, respectively. As Restall points out, nothing was unique regarding Columbus and his accomplishments. He offered no original plan or vision. In actuality, the Portuguese were mostly responsible for the Atlantic expansion. This expansion began over two hundred years prior, over time establishing a zone that was bordered by the Azores in the north, the Canary Islands in the south and African coast to the east. Restall claims that Columbus failed to become part of this process in the 1480's because "he lacked the connections and persuasive ideas of other navigators. Even after his first successful trip, the "discovery" of Caribbean islandsMyths of the…2in an area assigned to the Portuguese, his success was questioned. Restall goes on to point out that it became obvious that Columbus had not discovered the route to the East Indies, and had been lying to Queen Isabella about it. The Castilian crown had him arrested, and stripped him of the titles he had negotiated in his contract, Admiral and Viceroy of the Indies. Restall sums up by saying, "His discoveries were an accidental geographical byproduct of Portuguese expansion two centuries old, of Portuguese-Castilian competition for Atlantic control a century old, and of Portuguese-Castilian competition for a sea route to India older than Columbus himself. Furthermore, had Columbus not reached the Americas, any one of numerous other navigators would have done so within a decade."Restall believes that the image of Cortes being "bold and brilliant" was created with a "myth inside the myth" - that after landing on...

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