Paul Johnson

Coffers and Cannibals

Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 604pp £25 order from our bookshop

THE SPANISH CONQUEST of the Indies was one of the most important events in history, leaving an ineffaceable impression on global politics, language and culture. Yet among English speakers it is a strangely neglected subject. We know about Pizarro and ‘stout Cortez’ (whom Keats confused with Balboa), and, of course, Columbus. But that is all. The Times Historical Atlas devotes only two pages to Spanish and Portuguese colonialism, though they extended throughout the world. Moreover, there is a general notion that the conquest was easy, effected by a combination of bluff, ruthlessness and cruelty.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Jeremy Clarke on Red and White: An Unquenchable Thirst for Wine by ,
    • 'Englishmen Abroad in the Reign of Henry VIII'. Free lecture by Dr Susan Brigden, Thurs 18 Oct, 6.30pm Europe Hou… ,
    • It 'contains twists and near misses and bit-part players, everything you might expect from a true-crime story'. Ian… ,
    • Oh normally a week or two before the ceremony itself - so mid-November. ,
    • Ian Sansom reviews The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by… ,
    • 'It is hard to think of an economist who could craft such an elegantly readable account of postwar failure as this.… ,
    • Frederick Forsyth reviews The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by ,