Letters from Mexico

Hernán Cortés; Translated, edited and with a new introduction by Anthony Pagden; With an Introductory essay by J.H. Elliott

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August 11, 2001
640 pages, 5 x 7.75
27 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300090949
Paper

Hernán Cortés’s Cartas de Relacíon, written over a seven-year period to Charles V of Spain, provide an extraordinary narrative account of the conquest of Mexico from the founding of the coastal town of Veracruz until Cortés’s journey to Honduras in 1525. Pagden’s English translation has been prepared from a close examination of the earliest surviving manuscript and of the first printed editions, and he also provides a new introduction offering a bold and innovative interpretation of the nature of the conquest and Cortes’s involvement in it. J. H. Elliot’s introductory essay explains Cortes’s conflicts with the Crown and with Diego Velazquez, the governor of Cuba.

“The definitive edition [of the letters] in any language. . . . The book is a ’must’ for all those who are seriously interested in this traumatic clash of civilizations and the consequences, both for good and ill, which ensued.”—C. R. Boxer, English Historical Review

“One of the most fascinating Machiavellian documents to come out of the Renaissance.”—Carlos Fuentes, Guardian

“[Pagden] provides us with two important innovations: the first reliable edition of the most important Spanish text . . . and annotations that draw on Pagden’s own profound knowledge of Mesoamerican cultures.”—Helen Nader, Sixteenth Century Journal

Anthony Pagden is Harry C. Black Professor of History at the Johns Hopkins University.

J. H. Elliott is Regius Professor Emeritus of Modern History, University of Oxford.

"[A] welcome re-issue of Anthony Pagden’s fine translation of Cortés’ Cartas De Relacion. . . . This edition is a model of how to present a sometimes difficult text to an English-speaking readership."—B.W. Ife, Times Higher Education Supplement

"[Pagden] provides us with two important innovations: the first reliable edition of the most important Spanish text . . . and annotations that draw on Pagden’s own profound knowledge of Mesoamerican cultures. . . . Impressive . . . [The text and notes] capture the sweep and detail of two peoples looking on each other with amazement. . . . Rarely have the complexities of these early European and American interactions been made so accessible to readers in English."—Helen Nader, The Sixteenth Century Journal

"[The] definitive translation. . . . It adds up to one of the most fascinating Machiavellian documents to come out of the Renaissance."—Carlos Fuentes, The Guardian

"[Pagden’s] carefully translated and highly readable text of the letters is further distinguished by extensive explanatory notes and a bibliography of cited sources. . . . An essential book for the library of any serious Mexicanist."—Stephen A. Colston, American Indian Quarterly
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