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Matthew Restall Masterclass on New Conquest History in London

New terms, new resources, ‘New Conquest History’...

On 3rd March 2017 two of our Directors attended a superb Masterclass with Professor Matthew Restall (on our Panel of Experts) who discussed the field of ‘New Conquest History’. The session was organised by the Institute of Latin American Studies/School of Advanced Study, University of London. (Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The clash between Aztec and Spanish - illustration by Miguel Covarrubias
The clash between Aztec and Spanish - illustration by Miguel Covarrubias (Click on image to enlarge)

The timing of the Masterclass was fortuitous for us: we’re preparing a raft of new teaching and learning resources on the topic ‘the Aztecs and the Spanish Conquest, 1519-1935’ for teachers and students tackling the new study unit on the OCR 2016 GCSE specification B in England’s National Curriculum. Indeed a Briefing Pack written by Mexicolore for the Historical Association containing ‘Must know’ points on this subject has just been published on the HA website (link below...) and we will be uploading our own version - with a much longer resource - on our website this Easter.

Matthew Restall’s book ‘Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest’
Matthew Restall’s book ‘Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest’ (Click on image to enlarge)

In the Masterclass - and his public lecture the evening before - Matthew Restall, author of the highly recommended classic Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, encouraged us to question - and seek alternatives to - the traditional narrative surrounding the surrender of the Mexica to the Spanish in 1519, which stresses the triumphalist Spanish entry into the Mexica world, and the ‘inevitability and rapidity of military victory’.
This narrative - enduring often unquestioned up until the 1980s - has for too long been based disproportionately on the ‘eyewitness’ account written decades after the event by Bernal Díaz de Castillo, a Spanish footsoldier in the campaign. We now know - thanks to the diligent work of researchers in the Archive of the Indies in Seville, uncovering the testimonies of fellow conquistadores - that Díaz wasn’t even present at some of the times and places he mentions in his book! Some scholars even suggest today that Díaz’ book may have been compiled by several writers - or conceivably penned by Cortés himself...

Hodder Education’s new book by Richard Woff and Kate Jarvis
Hodder Education’s new book by Richard Woff and Kate Jarvis (Click on image to enlarge)

We can’t do justice here to Professor Restall’s scholarship, but there is some good news: his new book The Meeting: A True History of Montezuma, Cortés, and the Spanish-Aztec War will be published later this year...
And we can also recommend a forthcoming textbook in support of the new study unit in England, authored by two friends of ours with British Museum connections, Richard Woff and Kate Jarvis OCR SHP GCSE History Aztecs and the Spanish Conquest, 1519-1535 - link below.
The BAD news is, as Matthew informed us somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Terry Deary’s Angry Aztecs is probably the bestselling book worldwide on the Aztecs ever. Heaven help us!!

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on May 03rd 2016

‘What makes us ANGRY about “The Angry Aztecs”!’

HA Students Briefing Pack ‘The Aztecs & Spanish Conquest for GCSE’
Hodder Education website
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