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The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of Americaby Hugh Thomas
Synopses & Reviews
From a master chronicler of Spanish history comes a magnificent work about the pivotal years from 1522 to 1566, when Spain was the greatest European power. Hugh Thomas has written a rich and riveting narrative of exploration, progress, and plunder. At its center is the unforgettable ruler who fought the French and expanded the Spanish empire, and the bold conquistadors who were his agents. Thomas brings to life King Charles V—first as a gangly and easygoing youth, then as a liberal statesman who exceeded all his predecessors in his ambitions for conquest (while making sure to maintain the humanity of his new subjects in the Americas), and finally as a besieged Catholic leader obsessed with Protestant heresy and interested only in profiting from those he presided over.
The Golden Empire also presents the legendary men whom King Charles V sent on perilous and unprecedented expeditions: Hernán Cortés, who ruled the “New Spain” of Mexico as an absolute monarch—and whose rebuilding of its capital, Tenochtitlan, was Spain’s greatest achievement in the sixteenth century; Francisco Pizarro, who set out with fewer than two hundred men for Peru, infamously executed the last independent Inca ruler, Atahualpa, and was finally murdered amid intrigue; and Hernando de Soto, whose glittering journey to settle land between Rio de la Palmas in Mexico and the southernmost keys of Florida ended in disappointment and death. Hugh Thomas reveals as never before their torturous journeys through jungles, their brutal sea voyages amid appalling storms and pirate attacks, and how a cash-hungry Charles backed them with loans—and bribes—obtained from his German banking friends.
A sweeping, compulsively readable saga of kings and conquests, armies and armadas, dominance and power, The Golden Empire is a crowning achievement of the Spanish world’s foremost historian.
"One of history's greatest upheavals plays out as melodrama and picaresque in this rousing saga of the founding of Spain's Latin American empire. Picking up after CortÃ©s's capture of TenochtitlÃ¡n in 1522, National Book Award — winning historian Thomas (An Unfinished History of the World) follows the tiny bands of conquistadores as they fan out across two stunned continents, recounting the subjugations of Guatemala and the Yucatan, Pizarro's conquest of the Incan Empire, Orellano's harrowing voyage down the Amazon, and Coronado's vain quests for riches in the heart of North America. His panorama of the conquest depicts a vast criminal improvisation — the Spaniards' favorite tactic was to take Indian potentates hostage and demand a ransom in gold — whose bloody course was further roiled by murderous intrigues and civil wars among its leaders as they quarreled over territory and loot. Focused on the personalities, exploits, and vendettas of individual conquistadores, Thomas's account is almost as chaotic as their adventures; his occasional spotlighting of the distant, preoccupied figure of Spain's King Charles doesn't supply the unifying perspective he wants it to. Still, this story of the desperadoes who stole a hemisphere makes for gripping, old-fashioned narrative history, grand in scope and colorful in detail. Photo inserts; 28 maps. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Hugh Thomas is the author of numerous histories, including Rivers of Gold, a New York Times Notable Book and one of the Los Angeles Times’s Best Books of the Year; The Spanish Civil War, for which he won the Somerset Maugham Award; and An Unfinished History of the World, for which he won the Arts Council Prize for History. Made a lord in 1981, Lord Thomas was educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne.
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History and Social Science » Europe » Spain and Portugal » To 1930