• When Montezuma Met Cortés

  • The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History
  • By: Matthew Restall
  • Narrated by: Steven Crossley
  • Length: 16 hrs and 6 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (68 ratings)

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When Montezuma Met Cortés

By: Matthew Restall
Narrated by: Steven Crossley
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Publisher's Summary

A dramatic rethinking of the encounter between Montezuma and Hernando Cortés that completely overturns what we know about the Spanish conquest of the Americas

On November 8, 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés first met Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, at the entrance to the capital city of Tenochtitlan. This introduction - the prelude to the Spanish seizure of Mexico City and to European colonization of the mainland of the Americas - has long been the symbol of Cortés' bold and brilliant military genius. Montezuma, on the other hand, is remembered as a coward who gave away a vast empire and touched off a wave of colonial invasions across the hemisphere.

But is this really what happened? In a departure from traditional tellings, When Montezuma Met Cortés uses "the Meeting" - as Restall dubs their first encounter - as the entry point into a comprehensive reevaluation of both Cortés and Montezuma. Drawing on rare primary sources and overlooked accounts by conquistadors and Aztecs alike, Restall explores Cortés' and Montezuma's posthumous reputations, their achievements and failures, and the worlds in which they lived - leading, step by step, to a dramatic inversion of the old story. As Restall takes us through this sweeping, revisionist account of a pivotal moment in modern civilization, he calls into question our view of the history of the Americas and, indeed, of history itself.

©2018 Matthew Restall (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about When Montezuma Met Cortés

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Flawed, but worth it for those interested.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

It is still good for people who love history, but too dry for those that just want a good story.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Like British historical writers, the book is a little too dry. I mean, a small group of soldiers walked into Mexico and toppled a civilization in a short period of time. Shouldn't that be interesting? Would that be siding with Cortes if more imagery and a more sweeping story were presented?

What about Steven Crossley’s performance did you like?

It is my American exceptionalism here, but the word 'war' is very short and has an 'a' in it. Why is it the English way to pronounce it as a dramatic version of 'wore'?

Any additional comments?

The writer has made this his life's work, which I absolutely respect. But he gets too carried away with some issues that do not seem to make sense. Such as:

- The Aztecs were a wonderful, sophisticated society, who only heinously killed some people, and not everyone like we were led to believe, and their use of slavery was apparently okay.

-It was the brilliant Montezuma that outsmarted the conquistadors and baited them perfectly into his trap. Silly conquistadors.

-Since record keeping was so great in the Caribbean in the early 1500's, we know that Cortes was a nobody whose only talent was his ability not to die.

-Somehow the United States was inserted into this a few times for negative purposes. What would his native Britain know about colonialism?

-It wasn't 400 Spanish soldiers, more like 2,000 that helped fold the largest civilization in South America...........how unimpressive.

The chapter on slavery was enough condemn Cortes and his fellow conquistadors, the author's other takedowns of Cortes come across as speculative and petty.

I would love to have the author's response to this. Thanks,

14 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A much-needed revision to Conquest of Mexico story

Matthew Restall is right: our view of what happened "when Montezuma met Cortés" has been completely distorted by 5 centuries of mythmaking, misrepresentations, and outright fabrications, all centered on the larger-than-life figure of Cortés. Beginning with his letters to Carlos I in the 1520s, and the hagiography of him by Gómara shortly thereafter, Cortés's central role in the Conquest has been portrayed as one of complete control and mastery of the events that led to the fall of Tenochtitlan. Even as historical interpretations of Cortés have changed throughout the centuries--from a courageous deliverer of Christianity and civilization to a brutally violent and genocidal warmonger-- he is constantly portrayed as a brilliant, yet conniving, strategist, with perfect information, and in complete control of the events.

Restall's thoroughly researched book does two things brilliantly. One, he shows us, through what must have been an exhaustive reading of every narrative ever written about the Conquest since it happened more than 500 years ago, HOW the story became shaped and WHY it's been so hard to dislodge, even today. And two, he broadens our view of those events between 1519-1521 as they actually unfolded in the real world of Mesoamerican politics, a world Cortés had little insight into (his two translators notwithstanding), and even less control over.

There is a lot of underlying humor in the book as Restall highlights some of the more absurd reimaginings various authors came up with recreating the narrative. I found myself chuckling many times as I listened to the book. I thought the narration was terrific, spot on.

4 people found this helpful

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preachy, judgemental, meandering

Irritatingly written, fill of loaded words unnecessary to expounding a reasonable thesis, which is stated over and over without ever quite summing up the arguments to support it. I could not read it in print, and the narrator skillfully mimics the snotty, condescending, know-it-all tone taken by the author.

4 people found this helpful

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Not convinced

The story does not follow a systemic timeline. The author jumps from one event to another going back and forth with no consistency. He used many of the same examples that only amounted to circumstantial evidence and no smoking gun to place the nail on the coffin. This is another work of revision. His arguments were not persuasive.

3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Bad grad school essay

While the thesis may be compelling, I never got there—I spent 90 minutes listening to the author find as many words as possible to tell us that all other historians were wrong about Montezuma and Cortez, without ever reaching his punch line. Couldn’t take it any longer. Number one rule of writing: show, don’t tell.

I’m told that Fifth Sun is a better book on this period.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Howard Zinn much?

The authors dismissal of first-hand accounts is nauseating. The performance was well done! Worth a speed read.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Worth reading

While this book uses clear language and is definitely overall a good read/listen the author falls into The same speculative guess work that he is claiming to depose. While his interpretation of how the events took place seems highly likely he over states the theory as a fact which is just as improvable as the ones he is debunking. However just hearing all the possible differences and likelihoods is a great way to open our minds into viewing the historical telling of the events differently and understanding that the traditional telling is false and written by the victors.
The voice artist’s reading the audiobook may make the author seem a little more haughty and matter-of-fact then he intended when writing the book. So I’m saying my opinion of the author assertions might be interfered with by the readers vocal inflection choices and tone. I would highly recommend you listening for yourself!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Z
  • 12-10-19

Exceptional history-changing book marred by distracting narrator

Monumental work.
But the narrator detracted from an otherwise exceptional work by the constant annoying addition of unnecessary “r”s at the end of words like “Montezuma-r, Tlatelolco-r, and Texcoco-r and such.
Very distracting.