Book Review – Historia general de las Indias (Part 1)

Originally banned by the Spanish Crown, this is perhaps the very first book I’ve read that’s been officially banned for a large number of years. This book is a historical chronicle that many modern historians reference too, so I opted to read the work in its original Spanish form. Written in the 16th century, obviously this work was written using a very much archaic Castilian vocabulary. I found it amusing finding some archaic Spanish words not present in the modern form of the language, but still present in modern Portuguese. Needless to say, I didn’t found this book to be difficult read in terms of its language (excluding the entire Papal Bull of 1493 which was included in its original Latin text).

The book starts with the depiction of the world, Columbus’ voyages, and early settlements in the Caribbean to the mainland Americas, and finally with the conquest of Inca Empire and the civil wars that immediately followed. It is important to note that author of this book, Francisco López de Gómara was a religious cleric, so many of the chronicles are told and seen from a religious side of things.

This version of the General History of the Indies, does not include the chronicles of the Aztec conquest and biography of Hernán Cortés. This book describes the geography of the Americas in a really good manner. Not quite incredibly detailed as Tolkien, but definitely quite up there. Aside from the geography, you’ll read about how they perceived the new animal species, foods, native tribes, and cultures that the Spanish encountered and told from their perspective.

Unfortunately, this book does not chronicle the events of the different conquests and colonization in sequential order. Which I found somewhat confusing at times, since there were multiple instances were certain individuals die, and a couple of chapters later that specific individual is involved in a different event were they’re still alive. I also found it confusing when the author used different name variants for the same person.

As the title of this work implies, this book is a general simplification of what the conquistadores encountered in the Americas. This is somewhat understandable given the scope of the topic, otherwise this 400 page work would probably be over 10,000 page monster of a book.

I wasn’t aware of much of the history regarding the conquest of the Inca Empire. A very large portion of this book chronicles the deeds of Francisco Pizarro, conquest of the Inca Empire, and civil wars. To me, this was the most captivating portion of the book since all the events surrounding this explain a lot of the idiosyncrasy in all Latin American culture.

Overall, this is really fascinating read, and even though there were a couple some small side stories in this book that I personally see them as completely fictitious (ie find it hard to believe it really happened); this is still an extremely import book that describes our history.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *