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Old 03-24-2013, 08:09 AM   #31
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I'm scampering along behind you all and am finding your comments very interesting.

I was thinking as I read that if it was fiction, it would have been dismissed as ridiculously fanciful that such a small number of Spaniards could overthrow such a huge and sophisticated empire. The Spaniards' luck with the timing of their arrival is breathtaking.

And I think it is beautifully written: Hemmings' scholarship is stunning and his research meticulous, yet it flows smoothly. fantasyfan, I like your idea of browsing the notes for the chapter before reading. I had been reading the chapter and then reading the notes, because it seemed a shame to keep on breaking into the narrative to read the footnotes. I'll try your system with my next chapter.

And I must say I am glad to have a book to handle rather than try to move back and forth in an ebook. The version I got turned out to be a hardcover copy that is one of the early editions, so I may be missing extra notes on later research that may have been done since the original book came out.
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Old 03-24-2013, 10:06 AM   #32
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Chapter 10 "The Great Rebellion" is riveting! It reads like a novel.

Spoiler:
But the Incas were certainly doomed. Manco's heroic resistance with some short-term successes could not possibly succeed in the long or even medium term. As Hemming points out:

"Manco Inca was trying to expel an invader supported by the resources of a huge empire. He could not hope to succeed against its united determination."
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Old 03-24-2013, 10:21 AM   #33
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I am near half way through. What a headache to not be able to link to the footnotes! I use the bookmark solution and also use Kindle for PC.

I have no different observations to add to those already made. The detail, the loss of art, the terrible cruelty, the rampant greed - they all struck me as they have other readers. Although the book does indeed often seem like a school history best taken in small doses, I am happy to learn the detail of this history.
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Old 03-24-2013, 10:33 AM   #34
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I'm not done yet, but my overarching impression is one of near seamless integration of the facts of the situation (the textbook history) with images and personalities. Hemming makes me "see" the parade of the conquisdadores, the panoply of the moribund Incan civilization, the land, the architecture, and the clash of men. If it weren't for those pesky life issues, I'd find this unputdownable.

Hemming gives me the impression of someone who has so immersed himself in the source material and visits to the land that it lives for him, and that he's just recording it as a bystander, albeit one with 20th century sensibilities about conquest and extermination.
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Old 03-30-2013, 06:52 AM   #35
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Sometimes one encounters fascinating information which leads to further research.

I had never heard of the Araucanian Indians {mentioned by Hemming in a note to chapter 13} of Southern Chili. They were a quite loose confederation of various tribes who successfully resisted the Incas and then the Spanish Conquistadors. The Spanish failed to conquer them and until the 19th century this ethnic group remained independent. They finally accepted amalgamation with the Independent Chilean Government which overthrew Spanish control in the 19the century. They are still an active ethnic group in both Argentina and Chili.
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Old 03-30-2013, 11:38 AM   #36
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I have been surprised at how much the various tribes in the area aided the Spanish and helped the conquest. I expected the Inca population to be larger and more cohesive. It turns out they had been dominant in their civilization for less time than I had expected when the Spanish arrived. This book has been fascinating for what I am learing. I have been doing a lot of exploring on the web as I read to supplement. Pictures really help me to appreciate the text more. I'm still impressed by their civil engineering feats like the polygonal masonry and their high-altitude terraced gardens and storehouses. I even read a story about a group that maintains today a traditional suspension bridge to keep that skill alive.

Another thing that has surprised me is how little the Incas resisted the Spanish. I just finished the chapter on the Cusco rebellion. I suppose in the beginning they didn't know what to expect when these unfamiliar Europeans showed up. However their response really seems to run hot or cold. Warfare was still brutal and fierce on both sides. Kill the women, chop off their hands and heads, burn them alive, crush them with boulders and that sort of thing. Some of the descriptions from the contemporary accounts are chilling. I like the way that Hemming states these things so succinctly and matter of fact, yet it makes the impact of the words that more forceful and visual.
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Old 03-31-2013, 01:33 AM   #37
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Chilling is absolutely the right word, Bookwork_Girl. I am finding I can only cope with one chapter at a time because there is so much horror in what was done on both sides but especially by the Spaniards.

Spoiler:
I have just finished Chapter 12 about the second rebellion. It had been bad enough until I came to the description of a bloodbath of reprisals led by Francisco de Chaves, who "hanged men, women and children indiscriminately. ... Chaves was said to have slaughtered six hundred children under three years of age, and burned and impaled many adults."

Christians, carrying out their very own massacre of the innocents was all I could think when reading this.

And then a few pages further on, Pizarro being rebuffed by Manco, venting his anger on Manco's wife, a murder described by Herrera as "an act totally unworthy of a sane Christian man".

The torture and execution of the men fighting the Spaniards is bad enough, but slaughter of women and children? How quickly humans turn into monsters.

Last edited by Bookpossum; 04-01-2013 at 02:18 AM. Reason: Inserting a spoiler.
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Old 04-03-2013, 12:02 PM   #38
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I am impressed by the skill with which Hemming ties in philosophical and moral elements into his historical approach.

I mentioned how he shows that there was also a far more humane attitude concernnig the treatment of the Incas in Spain at the time. In Chapter 14 he discusses the influence of "the saintly fanatic Las Casas" who poured out "provactive treatises until his death in 1566." His most influential book A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies is described as an "extraordinary example of enlightened morality" and was translated into several languages.

Another major "moral thinker" was Francisco de Vitoria who was the first to state that "Neither pope nor emperor was temporal ruler of the whole world." Hemming states that this great thinker who defended the rights of the Incas to be treated as equals "is now acknowledged as a founder of international law."

In developing these points, Hemming is deepening his thesis and dramatising how these events link into a wider relevant context--both moral and historical. I feel that this adds a profundity to his book which sets it apart from other well-written--but perhaps less visionary approaches to History.

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Old 04-04-2013, 02:18 AM   #39
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I was impressed by exactly the same things, fantasyfan. I had never heard of Francisco de Vitoria, but what a man he must have been in those times - centuries ahead of most of the rest of the world.

And I am impressed again with Hemming's ability to pull one up and point out that by no means all the Spaniards were rapacious and inhumane, pointing out that the protests about the condition of the Peruvians were being made by Spaniards in Peru who wanted the Crown to intervene and ensure better treatment. And in describing the ghastly conditions in the mines, he reminds us that they were no different to the conditions in mines in other parts of the world.

Part of the problem was of course that the Crown was receiving one-fifth of the revenue, so despite all the edicts and concern expressed about the treatment of the natives, it had a vested interest in having the system keep on grinding them down. A bit reminiscent of our current situation here with all the concerns being expressed about people destroying their lives with problem gambling, but of course the government is getting revenue from the casinos and is therefore never going to put that genie back into its box, even if it could.

And I have to put in here that so far I have had one laugh-out-loud moment, which I hardly expected in the midst of such a grim and sad history. In one of his footnotes to Chapter 18, Hemming refers to a description of the natives' smelting ovens which is to be found "... in an otherwise insuffferably boring treatise."
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Old 04-09-2013, 07:53 PM   #40
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I've finished Conquest of the Incas and it is certainly one of the finest--perhaps the finest--large-scale Historical study I have ever read. It has a remarkable precision of detail, depth of analysis, and epic scope that make it difficult to put down. And always we see the human element--the odd combination of religiosity and hideous greed of the conquistadors, the equally strange mixture of contempt for the Indians and a willingness to exploit them as well as a paternalistic concern for their welfare in Viceroy Toledo. With the Incas themselves the tiny and vulnerable Vilcabamba State teetered on the edge of survival under the leadership of Manco and his followers but was destroyed in the end owing to foolish actions of its final rulers.

It is a book filled with drama and has political and moral lessons which, I suspect, are relevant today.

It was an inspired choice, Issybird.


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Old 04-11-2013, 04:36 AM   #41
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Great post, fantasyfan, and I agree with everything you say. Hemming's book is beautifully done in every way, written so clearly and well that one is hardly aware of the vast amount of work he did in pulling all the information together.

My undergraduate degree was in history, but I don't think I have ever read a more impressive work in that discipline than this one.
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Old 04-23-2013, 04:17 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by issybird View Post
I'm not done yet, but my overarching impression is one of near seamless integration of the facts of the situation (the textbook history) with images and personalities.
...........Hemming gives me the impression of someone who has so immersed himself in the source material and visits to the land that it lives for him, and that he's just recording it as a bystander, albeit one with 20th century sensibilities about conquest and extermination.
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..........
And I am impressed again with Hemming's ability to pull one up and point out that by no means all the Spaniards were rapacious and inhumane, pointing out that the protests about the condition of the Peruvians were being made by Spaniards in Peru who wanted the Crown to intervene and ensure better treatment. And in describing the ghastly conditions in the mines, he reminds us that they were no different to the conditions in mines in other parts of the world.......
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I've finished Conquest of the Incas and it is certainly one of the finest--perhaps the finest--large-scale Historical study I have ever read. It has a remarkable precision of detail, depth of analysis, and epic scope that make it difficult to put down. And always we see the human element--the odd combination of religiosity and hideous greed of the conquistadors, the equally strange mixture of contempt for the Indians and a willingness to exploit them as well as a paternalistic concern for their welfare in Viceroy Toledo. With the Incas themselves the tiny and vulnerable Vilcabamba State teetered on the edge of survival under the leadership of Manco and his followers but was destroyed in the end owing to foolish actions of its final rulers.

It is a book filled with drama and has political and moral lessons which, I suspect, are relevant today.

It was an inspired choice, Issybird.

True words, from the above....
I haven't finished this book yet, as I want to read it at leisure, keeping good track of the footnotes. It is a fantastic book in which the writer manages to give a voice to this part of the history.
Somehow this reminds me of the great historical work of Montaillou by Le Roy Ladurie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_Le_Roy_Ladurie and the works of Johan Huizinga, his Autumn of the Middle Ages http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Huizinga
As for my (somewhat pedantic, perhaps never again) question of this being literature.....no question about it that it is a book which urges me to think, see some things in a new light and appreciate this writer.

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Old 07-04-2013, 10:22 AM   #43
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I am keeping to shorter works this month, as I am still battling my way through the Andes, .
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I've finished Conquest of the Incas and it is certainly one of the finest--perhaps the finest--large-scale Historical study I have ever read. It has a remarkable precision of detail, depth of analysis, and epic scope that make it difficult to put down.
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My undergraduate degree was in history, but I don't think I have ever read a more impressive work in that discipline than this one.
Bumping this thread because of paola's post in the July nominations thread. I didn't finish it until early May myself. It was the longest 500-page book I've ever read; not that it was difficult, as Hemming's clear exposition presented no problems, but it was what I can only describe as dense. A slow read and deep immersion. I'm glad that others thought it was worth the effort. I never would have gotten to it if it were not the club selection and I'm deeply grateful. A world-expander.

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Somehow this reminds me of the great historical work of Montaillou by Le Roy Ladurie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_Le_Roy_Ladurie
I think this is an inspired comparison. Montaillou is one of my favorite books and yes, it provided a very similar experience of glazed inattention to the world around me, as I lived in southern France in the fourteenth century. For anyone who hasn't read it and is intrigued, I promise it's a far faster read than Incas!
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Old 12-31-2013, 11:37 AM   #44
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So I have finished this. At times it was a bit of a chore to keep going, that is when it read like a textbook for the history of the Spanish conquest of the Incas. On the other hand it was nice to have such a detailed picture painted of events and of the major players involved, and all the interesting tidbits of color.
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It was the longest 500-page book I've ever read; not that it was difficult, as Hemming's clear exposition presented no problems, but it was what I can only describe as dense. A slow read and deep immersion. I'm glad that others thought it was worth the effort. I never would have gotten to it if it were not the club selection and I'm deeply grateful. A world-expander.
I finished it yesterday (I had been distracted mid way through by other books) and the thoughts above capture mine pretty well - extremely glad to have read it, but I did find it slowgoing at time. I have nothing to add to the comments already made above, bar from the fact that really helped me reflect further on this book!
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