27 books like Victors and Vanquished

By Stuart B. Schwartz, Tatiana Seijas,

Here are 27 books that Victors and Vanquished fans have personally recommended if you like Victors and Vanquished. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

Olivia Milburn Author Of Kingdoms in Peril, Volume 1: The Curse of the Bao Lords

From my list on epic historical narratives from around the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a translator specializing in Chinese historical novels, and also an academic researching marginalized groups in Chinese history—ethnic minorities, the disabled, people with mental health issues, and so on. The treatment of marginalized people tells you a lot about what is going on within mainstream society. I’ve always been interested in stories about people from distant times and places, and I have a particular love of long sagas, something that you can really get your teeth into. Kingdoms in Peril covers five hundred years of history: I translated this for my own enjoyment and was surprised when I realized that I’d managed to write 850,000 words for fun!

Olivia's book list on epic historical narratives from around the world

Olivia Milburn Why did Olivia love this book?

Four times the sun has died and been reborn, and now we are living in the world of the fifth sun.

In this wonderful imaginative rendering of Aztec history, we move between mythological and real time, following the Mexica people as they gain power and establish a great kingdom, and then suffer the disaster of Spanish attack. The voices of many different people speak through this story, men and women, telling us of the price that they paid each step of the way in the struggle to survive in a beautiful but brutal world.

By Camilla Townsend,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Fifth Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In November 1519, Hernando Cortes walked along a causeway leading to the capital of the Aztec kingdom and came face to face with Moctezuma. That story-and the story of what happened afterwards-has been told many times, but always following the narrative offered by the Spaniards. After all, we have been taught, it was the Europeans who held the pens. But the Native Americans were intrigued by the Roman alphabet and, unbeknownst to the newcomers, they used it to
write detailed histories in their own language of Nahuatl. Until recently, these sources remained obscure, only partially translated, and rarely consulted by…


Book cover of The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City

Andrew Konove Author Of Black Market Capital: Urban Politics and the Shadow Economy in Mexico City

From my list on everyday life in Mexico City.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up hearing stories about Mexico City from my grandmother, who spent her childhood in the 1930s there after emigrating from the Soviet Union. I fell in love with the city’s neighborhoods during my first visit in 2006, and I am still mesmerized by its scale and its extremes. I am especially interested in the city’s public spaces and the ways people have used them for work and pleasure over the centuries. Those activities often take place in the gray areas of the law, a dynamic I explored in the research for my Ph.D. in History and in my book, Black Market Capital

Andrew's book list on everyday life in Mexico City

Andrew Konove Why did Andrew love this book?

This book by Barbara Mundy, an art historian, challenges the idea that the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was instantly transformed into Spanish Mexico City following the conquest in 1521. Using indigenous and Spanish maps, Nahua codices, and archaeological evidence, Mundy shows that many aspects of urban life remained in indigenous hands for nearly a century after the Spanish and their indigenous allies toppled Montezuma and his empire. The book is beautifully illustrated, and Mundy’s writing brings the spaces and rhythms of the sixteenth-century city to life.

By Barbara E. Mundy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner, Book Prize in Latin American Studies, Colonial Section of Latin American Studies Association (LASA), 2016
ALAA Book Award, Association for Latin American Art/Arvey Foundation, 2016

The capital of the Aztec empire, Tenochtitlan, was, in its era, one of the largest cities in the world. Built on an island in the middle of a shallow lake, its population numbered perhaps 150,000, with another 350,000 people in the urban network clustered around the lake shores. In 1521, at the height of Tenochtitlan's power, which extended over much of Central Mexico, Hernando Cortes and his followers conquered the city. Cortes boasted to…


Book cover of The Aztecs

Matthew Restall Author Of When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

From my list on the Aztecs and Spanish Conquistadors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent a good part of my childhood in Spain and Venezuela while being educated in England, and early on I developed a fascination with the Spanish and Native American worlds. After traveling as a young man in Mexico and in Central America, I was hooked for life. With history degrees from Oxford and UCLA, for thirty years now I have been studying and writing books about the Aztecs and Mayas, Spanish conquistadors, and Afro-Mexicans—fascinating subjects from whom I continue to learn.

Matthew's book list on the Aztecs and Spanish Conquistadors

Matthew Restall Why did Matthew love this book?

I love Oxford’s Very Short Introductions series (I have co-authored two books in the series, on The Conquistadors and on The Maya), and this is one of my favorite volumes in the series. It is a book I often use in the classroom and as a reference. Carrasco writes with clarity and wit, managing both to introduce readers to the Aztecs as well as to take us more deeply into various aspects of their history and culture. He has written a great deal on the Aztecs, particularly on their religion, and his depth of knowledge shows—but is not showy. His interpretation of Aztec culture is different from Townsend’s (and, to some extent, mine), but not confusingly so; in other words, you could read both this book and her Fifth Sun, get a sense of how scholars grapple with the tricky evidence that has survived, with both authors helping…

By David Carrasco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Aztecs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Very Short Introduction employs the disciplines of history, religious studies, and anthropology as it illuminates the complexities of Aztec life. Readers meet a people highly skilled in sculpture, astronomy, city planning, poetry, and philosophy, who were also profoundly committed to cosmic regeneration through the thrust of the ceremonial knife and through warfare. David Carrasco looks beyond Spanish accounts that have colored much of the Western
narrative to let Aztec voices speak about their origin stories, the cosmic significance of their capital city, their methods of child rearing, and the contributions women made to daily life and the empire. Carrasco…


Book cover of Collision of Worlds: A Deep History of the Fall of Aztec Mexico and the Forging of New Spain

Matthew Restall Author Of When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

From my list on the Aztecs and Spanish Conquistadors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent a good part of my childhood in Spain and Venezuela while being educated in England, and early on I developed a fascination with the Spanish and Native American worlds. After traveling as a young man in Mexico and in Central America, I was hooked for life. With history degrees from Oxford and UCLA, for thirty years now I have been studying and writing books about the Aztecs and Mayas, Spanish conquistadors, and Afro-Mexicans—fascinating subjects from whom I continue to learn.

Matthew's book list on the Aztecs and Spanish Conquistadors

Matthew Restall Why did Matthew love this book?

To complement the perspectives of historians and art historians, Carballo’s book offers the viewpoint and skills of an archaeologist. But Collision of Worlds is far from being a field report from a dig. Instead, Carballo combines the sources and methods of historians and archaeologists to present a thorough and deep-rooted account of the two civilizations that met in Mexico five hundred years ago, giving the reader a more extensive background on the Iberian and Mesoamerican past than the other books I have selected. Like the other books I have chosen, this is recent work, and thus together these books all represent slightly different takes on the topic.

By David M. Carballo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Collision of Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mexico of five centuries ago was witness to one of the most momentous encounters between human societies, when a group of Spaniards led by Hernando Cortes joined forces with tens of thousands of Mesoamerican allies to topple the mighty Aztec Empire. It served as a template for the forging of much of Latin America and initiated the globalized world we inhabit today. The violent clash that culminated in the Aztec-Spanish war of 1519-21 and the new colonial order
it created were millennia in the making, entwining the previously independent cultural developments of both sides of the Atlantic.

Collision of Worlds…


Book cover of The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

David Carballo Author Of Collision of Worlds: A Deep History of the Fall of Aztec Mexico and the Forging of New Spain

From my list on the Aztec-Spanish War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an archaeologist at Boston University with a transatlantic family that spans Spain and Latin America.  My research has primarily focused on Mesoamerica, and prehispanic central Mexico more specifically, but the deep roots of these transatlantic entanglements have always fascinated me personally and as a historically minded scholar.

David's book list on the Aztec-Spanish War

David Carballo Why did David love this book?

A vivid account of life in the Aztec world and the tragic Aztec-Spanish War told by Indigenous scribes writing in Nahuatl during the decades following these events and the transformation to colonial New Spain. Mexican authors began publishing translations of Native-author sources in the late eighteenth century; yet, together with his former advisor, Ángel María Garibay, León-Portilla did more than any other twentieth-century scholar to elevate the voices and perspectives of Nahua peoples, the descendants of the prehispanic Aztecs. The Broken Spears was first published in Spanish in 1959 and translated to English in 1962. It has been translated into many other languages and revised versions since.  Its key sixteenth-century texts include portions of Book 12 of the Florentine Codex, compiled by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, and sections of the Annals of Tlatelolco. Within these composite sources, readers can sense the multivalence of the Native authors…

By Miguel León-Portilla,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Broken Spears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For hundreds of years, the history of the conquest of Mexico and the defeat of the Aztecs has been told in the words of the Spanish victors. Miguel León-Portilla has long been at the forefront of expanding that history to include the voices of indigenous peoples. In this new and updated edition of his classic The Broken Spears, León-Portilla has included accounts from native Aztec descendants across the centuries. These texts bear witness to the extraordinary vitality of an oral tradition that preserves the viewpoints of the vanquished instead of the victors. León-Portilla's new Postscript reflects upon the critical importance…


Book cover of Aztec

Andrew Hudgins Author Of After the Lost War: A Narrative

From my list on historical novels that I love to recommend.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with historical novels as a kid somewhere between reading Johnny Tremain and Ben and Me (from the point of view of a mouse living in Ben Franklin’s hat) in elementary school and Mika Waltari’s The Roman and The Egyptian and Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur in junior high. And that love led me to write After the Lost War, a historical novel in verse based on the life of the poet Sidney Lanier, who served in the confederate army in the civil war, survived to start a family and died from tuberculous he contracted as a prisoner of war.

Andrew's book list on historical novels that I love to recommend

Andrew Hudgins Why did Andrew love this book?

Mixtli, an elderly Aztec lord captured by the Spanish, is reluctantly questioned by a Catholic bishop charged with reporting to the king of Spain about the customs and mores of his new unwilling subjects. The bishop is repulsed and appalled by the violent history and, to his mind, sexual looseness of the Aztecs while blind to the violent depredations of the conquistadors who protect him. But the story that outrages the bishop is for the reader a spectacular tragic saga of the end of the Aztec empire from the point of view of the conquered and a telling of what was lost.

By Gary Jennings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aztec as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gary Jennings's Aztec is the extraordinary story of the last and greatest native civilization of North America.

Told in the words of one of the most robust and memorable characters in modern fiction, Mixtli-Dark Cloud, Aztec reveals the very depths of Aztec civilization from the peak and feather-banner splendor of the Aztec Capital of Tenochtitlan to the arrival of Hernán Cortás and his conquistadores, and their destruction of the Aztec empire. The story of Mixtli is the story of the Aztecs themselves---a compelling, epic tale of heroic dignity and a colossal civilization's rise and fall.


Book cover of The Native Conquistador: Alva Ixtlilxochitl's Account of the Conquest of New Spain

Camilla Townsend Author Of Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

From my list on the Aztecs by people who once knew an Aztec.

Why am I passionate about this?

Twenty-five years ago, I began to study Nahuatl, the language once spoken by the Aztecs—and still spoken today by more than a million Indigenous people in Mexico. This has opened up to me a world of great excitement. After the Spanish conquest, many Aztecs learned the Roman alphabet. During the day, they used it to study the texts presented to them by the Franciscan friars. But in the evenings, they used it to transcribe old histories recited for them by their parents and grandparents. Today we are beginning to use those writings to learn more about the Aztecs than we ever could before we studied their language.

Camilla's book list on the Aztecs by people who once knew an Aztec

Camilla Townsend Why did Camilla love this book?

Many people don’t realize that there were Indigenous people who chose to side with the Spaniards.

If they had reasons of their own to support the powerful outsiders, they sometimes did so. One such man had a great-great-grandson who became a writer in colonial Mexico. He took the family stories and did some research of his own, and then wrote this compelling account of the decisions his ancestor made and the actions he took.

I love his pride! (Warning: you have to like battle scenes to like this one.)

By Amber Brian (editor), Bradley Benton (editor), Pablo Garcia Loaeza (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Native Conquistador as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For many years, scholars of the conquest worked to shift focus away from the Spanish perspective and bring attention to the often-ignored voices and viewpoints of the Indians. But recent work that highlights the "Indian conquistadors" has forced scholars to reexamine the simple categories of conqueror and subject and to acknowledge the seemingly contradictory roles assumed by native peoples who chose to fight alongside the Spaniards against other native groups. The Native Conquistador-a translation of the "Thirteenth Relation," written by don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl in the early seventeenth century-narrates the conquest of Mexico from Hernando Cortes's arrival in 1519…


Book cover of When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

David Carballo Author Of Collision of Worlds: A Deep History of the Fall of Aztec Mexico and the Forging of New Spain

From my list on the Aztec-Spanish War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an archaeologist at Boston University with a transatlantic family that spans Spain and Latin America.  My research has primarily focused on Mesoamerica, and prehispanic central Mexico more specifically, but the deep roots of these transatlantic entanglements have always fascinated me personally and as a historically minded scholar.

David's book list on the Aztec-Spanish War

David Carballo Why did David love this book?

For a couple of decades, Restall has been at the vanguard of a group of historians developing what is known as the New Conquest History, an effort to balance the Eurocentrism of earlier histories of the Aztec-Spanish War and its aftermath. I’ve used an earlier book of his, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, in my teaching, as it is succinctly argued and provokes students to think critically about the early history of Latin America. This book builds on that and narrows the focus to how the historic encounter between Moctezuma, the Great Speaker of Tenochtitlan and the most powerful individual in Mesoamerica, and Cortés (on November 8, 1519) has been reinterpreted in the years since.  It ranges across five centuries of history, art, and aesthetics, and pop culture to poke holes in narratives that center Cortés’ presumed military brilliance and problematize notions that Moctezuma considered the Spaniards gods…

By Matthew Restall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Montezuma Met Cortés as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dramatic rethinking of the encounter between Montezuma and Hernando Cortes that completely overturns what we know about the Spanish conquest of the Americas

On November 8, 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes first met Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, at the entrance to the capital city of Tenochtitlan. This introduction-the prelude to the Spanish seizure of Mexico City and to European colonization of the mainland of the Americas-has long been the symbol of Cortes's bold and brilliant military genius. Montezuma, on the other hand, is remembered as a coward who gave away a vast empire and touched off a wave…


Book cover of The History of the Conquest of New Spain

Alan Huffman Author Of Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer

From my list on traveling to dangerous places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started out like most travelers, attracted to new places and to meeting people whose worlds were different from my own. Typically, this meant tried-and-true destinations in Europe until a book project required me to visit an utterly daunting place, the West African nation of Liberia during a civil war. I was in no way prepared for the experience and it changed everything. Seeing how people behave when faced with extreme circumstances profoundly altered my view of the world. Everything was magnified. Though I still enjoy a cup of espresso on the Piazza Navona, there is nothing like traveling to a forbidden zone and meeting someone destined to be a lifelong friend on the roof of a bombed-out building. It opens the world in ways that are challenging and scary, but also incomparably rewarding. 

Alan's book list on traveling to dangerous places

Alan Huffman Why did Alan love this book?

Any account of dangerous travel holds the potential for unexpected revelation, but this one taps a motherlode of rare insights and observations. Part of the reason is that Diaz, a twenty-something soldier of fortune in Hernán Cortés’ 16th-century expedition to the New World, became enchanted by the Aztec civilization that he and his compadres had come to pillage and destroy. Diaz writes vividly and lyrically, with a keen eye for graphic detail, and is unsparing in his accounts of the remarkable brutality on both sides. Five centuries later, his account remains illuminating and disturbing, and shows it’s not always necessary to like your traveling companion to gain insight into a perilous, previously unknown world.

By Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Davíd Carrasco,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The History of the Conquest of New Spain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The History of the Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a new abridgement of Diaz del Castillo's classic ""Historia verdadera de la conquista de Nueva Espana"", offers a unique contribution to our understanding of the political and religious forces that drove the great cultural encounter between Spain and the Americas known as the 'conquest of Mexico.' Besides containing important passages, scenes, and events excluded from other abridgements, this edition includes eight useful interpretive essays that address indigenous religions and cultural practices, sexuality during the early colonial period, the roles of women in indigenous cultures, and analysis of…


Book cover of Where Horizons Go

Gabriel Spera Author Of Twisted Pairs: Poems

From my list on for people who enjoy poetry that looks like poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I can’t guess how many great poems I have committed to memory. In waiting rooms, or in the checkout line, I recite them to myself. In this way, poetry helps me not only understand the world we live in, but live in it without going crazy. And while I love all poetry, I’ve always found that poetry in traditional forms—with meter and rhyme—is easier to remember. That’s one reason why I’ve always been drawn to formal verse. In my own poetry, I strive to uphold that tradition, while inventing new forms that spring organically from the subject at hand. I trust these books will demonstrate I’m not alone.

Gabriel's book list on for people who enjoy poetry that looks like poetry

Gabriel Spera Why did Gabriel love this book?

This book once again shows that dead white men do not hold a monopoly on great formalist verse. Espaillat hails from the Dominican Republic, and Spanish is her first language.

Many of the poems in this book deal directly with the difficulties, ambiguities, and opportunities of straddling two languages and cultures—particularly the troubling association with colonialism and imperialism inherent in both English and Spanish (conquistadors, anyone?).

I admire her easy handling of traditional forms—sonnets are apparently her favorite. What I love most is how these poems behave like the poems we knew as children, with satisfying rhyme and meter, while entertaining the themes we ponder as adults—power, history, exile, and language itself.

I find it interesting that this book—her first—was published relatively late in her life; perhaps that’s why it marries the energy of an author’s first book with the wisdom and understanding of an author’s last. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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