When Montezuma Met Cortes by Matthew Restall

When Montezuma Met Cortes: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

Mr. Restall has certainly done a lot of research on this subject! I, on the other hand, have not.  I reserved a copy of this book because the title sounded interesting and this is certainly a topic about which I know very little.

I liked his term “mythistory”. The idea we conflate stories so often that they have truly become our history is one I have reflected on often.  History is written by the victors, but does that make it accurate? Does that mean the vanquished have no story?

I have to say I found much of this book pedantic and difficult to read.  I have already stated I am not well-versed in this topic, so perhaps it was too academic a work for this reader.

I appreciated the author’s approach to his research as a mystery with multiple layers: what really happened, what appears to happen, and how the historian figured out which is which.  He then spends much of the book offering up the “old” story, negating it and replacing it with a new version of what really happened.

Two of the myths I do recall from my time before reading this book were that the Aztecs  regularly performed ritualistic and barbaric human sacrifices, and that Cortes was believed to be and treated  as a deity when he arrived in Mexico.  The author’s refutation of each of these stories was interesting and rational.

As this author has dedicated so much of his life, time and energy to studying Central American history, I will be seeking out his other titles when I am next seeking further knowledge of this region.

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