The legacy of imperial Spain was shaped by many hands. Chief among them was the towering figure of King Philip II, the cultivated Spanish monarch whom a contemporary once called "the arbiter of the world". Cheerful and pious, he inherited vast authority from his father but felt himself unworthy to wield it. His 42-year reign changed the face of the globe forever.
Alongside Philip we find the entitled descendants of New Spain's original explorers - men who, like their king, came into possession of land they never conquered and wielded supremacy they never sought. Here too are the Roman Catholic religious leaders of the Americas, whose internecine struggles created possibilities that the emerging Jesuit order was well positioned to fill. With the sublime stories of arms and armadas, kings and conquistadors come tales of the ridiculous: the opulent parties of New Spain's wealthy hedonists and the unexpected movement to encourage Philip II to conquer China.
Finally, Hugh Thomas unearths the first indictments of imperial Spain's labor rights abuses in the Americas - and the early attempts by its more enlightened rulers and planters to address them. Written in the brisk, flowing narrative style that has come to define Hugh Thomas' work, the final volume of this acclaimed trilogy stands alone as a history of an empire making the transition from conquest to inheritance - a history that Thomas reveals through the fascinating lives of the people who made it.
"A sweeping, encyclopedic history of the arrogance, ambition, and ideology that fueled the quest for empire." (Kirkus)
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Too Much Namedropping
Though he is definitely an expert, it seems as if the author is writing out his notes without a lot of synthesis. Lots and lots of separate facts strung together. Better as a reference book, maybe. Better to pick out a smaller number of key characters and tell us enough to get to know them, rather than having an army of names with a few sentences about each. A good book to play over many times while doing chores or routine tasks, in hopes of picking out and retaining bits of interesting info here and there along the way. No danger of missing anything big or exciting while distracted.
There are so many names of minor notables, like in society columns, all given in full and complex forms, with the well-meaning narrator having problems pronouncing so many of them. Someone editorial who knew the proper pronunciations should have gone over the material with him in advance.
Should have selected a narrator who knew Castilian or Latin American Spanish fairly well, since there are so very many Spanish names to pronounce, or someone should have coached him in advance. Don’t blame the piano player, he did the best he could on his own..
Just focus on a limited number of key charcters and tell us more about each of them, in a more interesting way.
Mostly I don’t like abridged books, but this one might be better in an abridged edition.
- M. MCCASKEY
Great book from Hugh Thomas but excruciatingly poor narration.
- manuel laborde