Mathew Restall's Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest

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Book Review: Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest

Mathew Restall’s Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest is a well-written book that serves an important purpose. That purpose being: the debunking of generally accepted falsehoods about the Spanish Conquest beginning in the 15th century. Restall’s book is separated into seven chapters that specifically address general myths most historians and students perceive as basic --- universal truths. Restall uses the term “myth” to describe the inaccurate/fictitious depiction of history “commonly taken to be true, partially or absolutely.” These “myths” are the progenitors of unintentionally self-centered perceptions of events historically recorded in subjectivity. The Self-absorption, relating to the over exaggeration and mystification of the Spanish Conquest, germinated over time. Excitements about the “New World” took Spain by storm and subsequently lead to a heterogeneity of mythical depictions.

The chapters of the book discuss seven myths; the myth of exceptional men, the king’s army, the white conquistador, completion, (mis) communication, native desolation, and superiority. Too much credit is given to the men who were apart of the conquest. These men are credited for innovating a unique skill set that allowed them to conquer the natives when in reality, they were merely utilizing strategies and techniques the Spaniards had been using for years in their conflicts in North Africa and other regions. Restall relied heavily on the writings of the conquistadors and natives to determine the truth behind all of the myth and folklore. A common myth is that the conquistadors were sent directly by the king of Spain to conquer the Americas as soldiers but Restall proves this myth to be incorrect based off of the writings of the conquistadors themselves. These men had a variety of “identities, occupations, and motivations---and were far more interesting than that.”

Another common misconception speaks of the exclusivity and...
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