Conquest of Mexico
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0046
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0046
The conquest of Mexico has fascinated the world for many generations. Most works have focused on the Spaniards’ defeat of the so-called Aztecs (or more properly, the Nahuas, and those who spoke the Nahuatl language, in particular those who inhabited the city of Tenochtitlan and dominated the Central Basin and surrounding areas). However, Spanish wars against the Maya and other groups have also received their share of attention. Until quite recently, classic works underscored European superiority, but in the second half of the 20th century, scholars’ approaches shifted dramatically. Presently, many scholars work on what they call the “New Conquest History,” meaning that they take indigenous agency seriously and recognize that although Cortés’s most famous deeds all occurred between 1519 and 1521, the conquest of Mexico actually took much longer than those dates imply. The conquest was an uneven process, with victory much more difficult for the Spaniards to achieve in isolated or remote areas. Everywhere cultural hegemony remained an elusive goal. In short, the “conquest of Mexico” no longer refers merely to the toppling of Moctezuma but to a much broader and more complex process. In this bibliography, for the sake of organization only, we categorize studies pertaining to the initial military invasion by the Spaniards in any one area as “the conquest” and the negotiations that continued in ensuing generations as “the aftermath of conquest.”
The story of the fall of the Aztec empire to a group of Spaniards led by Hernando Cortés has been the subject of many grand syntheses. On the eve of the Mexican-American War, William H. Prescott published his three-volume work (Prescott 1843), the central narrative of which has in many ways dominated the popular literature ever since. Reincarnations of that story of Western glory and native shame have appeared as recently as Thomas 1993 and Levy 2008. It subtly influences even brilliant scholarship that privileges the Western imagination (Gruzinski 1993). Hassig 1994 broke with the narrative, and Elliott 2006 moved away from traditional assumptions in important ways in a widely read work. Thus far only Townsend 2006 attempts to tell the whole story of the conquest from an indigenous perspective. Brienen and Jackson 2008 puts together a wide-ranging collection of short pieces, giving readers efficient access to the much more complex work on the subject by specialists in the late 20th and early 21st centuries—work that allows for more agency on the part of indigenous people. For an overview of the many types of native-language sources, see Lockhart, et al. 2007.
Brienen, Rebecca P., and Margaret A. Jackson, eds. Invasion and Transformation: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Conquest of Mexico. Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2008.
Provides a suggestive sampling of the high-quality work being done by scholars in the field.
Elliott, John. Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492–1830. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.
Only the first few chapters pertain directly to the conquest of Mexico, but they are well worth reading in that they contextualize all the events and thus demystify them.
Gruzinski, Serge. The Conquest of Mexico: The Incorporation of Indian Societies into the Western World, 16th–18th Centuries. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1993.
Probably the leading work in a subfield of literary theorists who have focused on the subtle cultural domination exerted by the West over indigenous peoples. Translated from the original French.
Hassig, Ross. Mexico and the Spanish Conquest. London and New York: Longman, 1994.
In a crowded subfield, this remains the best study of the military history of the invasion.
Levy, Buddy. Conquistador: Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs. New York: Bantam, 2008.
A highly readable modernized version of what is essentially Prescott’s story.
Lockhart, James, Lisa Sousa, and Stephanie Wood, eds. Sources and Methods for the Study of Postconquest Mesoamerican Ethnohistory. 2007.
An invaluable guide for those seeking an overview of the types of native-language sources known to exist and the ways they have been studied thus far.
Prescott, William H. History of the Conquest of Mexico. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1843.
A classic work republished dozens of times, most recently in a 2009 edition edited by J. H. Elliott.
Thomas, Hugh. Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés, and the Fall of Old Mexico. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.
The author attempts to move beyond Prescott by taking greater account of the native perspective, but his own limited knowledge of that area causes that aspect of the work to fail.
Townsend, Camilla. Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.
Though the book specifically treats the figure of Malinche, it also provides a narrative of the classic drama that diverges from prior accounts in that the indigenous peoples are consistently a point of reference.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Ancient Andean Textiles
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Andean Music
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Brazil, The
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Atlantic Creoles
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial New Granada
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Dependency Theory in Latin American History
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500–1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Dutch in South America and the Caribbean, The
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Economies from Independence to Industrialization
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- Gaucho Literature
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guaraní and Their Legacy, The
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Guatemala (Colonial Period)
- Guatemala (Modern & National Period)
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- José María Arguedas and Early 21st Century Cultural and Po...
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Magical Realism
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Nationalism
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Pastoralism in the Andes
- Paz, Octavio
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-conquest Mesoamerican States, The
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Religions in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Santo Domingo
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Slavery in Brazil
- São Paulo
- Spanish American Arab Literature
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Spiritual Conquest of Latin America, The
- Telenovelas and Melodrama in Latin America
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Venezuelan Literature
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas