The Inca Story: The Best Books Besides God, Glory and Gold

I jest! My books have been preceded by distinguished authors.There is an abundance of superb books that I have studied to prepare to write this book, a remarkable journey of learning and love. I recommend a few of them, listed below, if you wish to expand your breadth of knowledge of the Incas and their marvelous culture as well as the incredible rise of Castile and Leon into the great Empire that was Spain.

  1. The History of the Conquest of Peru, by William H. Prescott, 1847. This is a remarkably fresh narrative presentation of the saga with keen insights by this scholar.
  2. The Conquest of the Incas, by John Hemming, 1970. After consulting over a thousand books and treatises, traveling for a year in Peru and consulting original documents in Spain over a period of six years, Hemming’s entertaining narrative account may still be the definitive account of the Inca conquest. The illuminating chapter notes can be as interesting as the narrative.
  3. Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru, by Gracilaso de la Vega, El Inca, translated by Harold V. Livermore, 1966. This is a classic, written in a loving, lyrical style by one who interviewed many of the Inca’s who witnessed the tragic collapse of the Inca Empire.
  4. The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, by Pedro de Cieza de Leon, edited and translated by Alexandra Parma Cook and Noble David Cook, 1998. This is an excellent presentation of the Conquest from the Spanish perspective.
  5. Narrative of the Incas, by Juan de Betanazos, translated and edited by Roland Hamilton and Dana Buchanan, 1966.  Written by a Spaniard who married a niece of Huayna Capac and who personally interviewed Inca survivors and descendants, the work is the favored account of the Conquest by the distinguished scholar of the Incas, Maria Rostworowski.
  6. History of the Inca Realm, by Maria Rostworowski, de Diez Canseco, 1999. Written by a preeminent scholar on the Incas, this is a well-written, succinct ethno history of the Incas, their cultural development and the people who played the key roles in the rise and fall of the Inca Empire.
  7. The Incas, by Terrance D’Altroy, 2002. This scholarly work affords the reader an in depth view of how the Incas lived, worshiped, fought and advanced their culture.
  8. Admiral of the Ocean Sea, A Life of Christopher Columbus, by Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, 1942. This Pulitzer Prize winner is a must-read for people who still have a sense of wonder for the Herculean struggle of Christopher Columbus to fulfill his belief in a western passage to China and Japan. One gains a deep understanding of the man, of the navigation challenges he faced, of the physical feats of endurance and the political obstacles that he endured in the course of his epic life. One will learn and be delightfully entertained by reading this.
  9. The European Discovery of America, by Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, 1974. Admiral Morison explores the adventures of the other great sea voyage explorers, such as Magellan, in great nautical detail. The work is replete with Morison’s own editorial, zesty comments that add powerfully to the readability of the book, along with the rich illustrations and maps. It is a great read for anyone who has a love of the sea and adventure with monumental implications.
  10. The Emperor Charles V, by Karl Brandi, 1939. This is a meticulously researched narrative of the life and struggles of the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor. It captures the incredible breadth of the Empire that he ruled and the wide span of issues that he attempted to manage.
  11. The Rise of the Spanish Empire in the Old World and in the New, by Roger Bigelow Merriman, 1962. Merriman’s four-volume work is still a definitive, serious history of the empire from the Middle Ages to September 13, 1598, the death of King Philip II. While this is not bedtime reading, perusing it before a trip to Spain or the former Hapsburg territories would immensely enrich your travel experience.
  12. Empire, How Spain Became A World Power, by Henry Kamen, 2002. Professor Emeritus Kamen is arguably the best, most prolific historian of Spain. This is a must-read for those interested in understanding why and how Spain became the great power of the 16th Century. In his concluding chapter, titled the Silence of Pizarro, he insightfully wrote, “The failure of Spain to create an imperial discourse, that is, to create an understanding among its peoples based on shared interests, communication and language, may be termed ‘the silence of Pizarro’ … The silence of Pizarro was not a local phenomena restricted to a momentary confrontation in the Andes. It was a silence that encompassed continents.” When one considers events in the 21st century in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is fair to wonder if mankind is really doomed to repeat its errors.
  13. The Men of Cajamarca, A Social and Biographical Study of the First Conquerors of Peru, by James Lockhart, 1972.  This book on the 168 men who were present at Cajamarca for the capture of Atahualpa, that brilliant, brave bluff that made the conquest possible, is a priceless in-depth look at the participants and their lives.
  14. Isabel, The Queen, Life and Times, by Peggy K. Liss, 1992, 2004. The author beautifully captures the triumphs, trials and tribulations of Queen Isabella, the first true feminist of Europe.
  15. The Last Crusader, Isabella, by William Thomas Walsh, 1930. If narrative history bores you, this historically accurate novel will entertain and inform.
  16. Rivers of Gold, The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan, by Hugh Thomas, 2003. This modern study of the first half of the 16th Century Spanish explorations is a perfect for people who wish to understand the economic and political impact that the early discoverers had on the Old and New World.
  17. God’s Crucible, Islam and the Making of Europe, by David Levering Lewis, 2008. An understanding of the contribution of Islam to Spanish culture and society is critical to seeing 16th Century Spanish history in the proper context. This narrative history is an outstanding way to get one’s arms around what has become a key driver in the 21st century.
  18. 1421, The Year China Discovered America, by Gavin Menzies, 2002. This British Naval officer makes an intriguing, rather compelling case that the Ming Dynasty Emperor, Zhu Di, launched a massive fleet of Chinese ships on a round-the-world exploration decades before Columbus.

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