When Montezuma Met Cortes by Matthew Restall

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for When Montezuma Met Cortes:

When good scholarship goes wrong.

Quick synopsis:

A reexamination of when Montezuma first met Hernan Cortes. The author has many thoughts.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

N/A. This is historical scholarship that would put anyone not absolutely enamored with the time period into a coma.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Yeah, can’t really call these “facts.” I explain below.

My Take on When Montezuma Met Cortes:

The premise of this book is interesting. What if we reevaluated when Montezuma met Cortes and looked at alternate views of how it all went down.

There are two major problems. Restall is not convincing of his version of events and in fact seems to argue with himself. On the one hand, he calls out Cortes as a bungling idiot but the ultimate survivor. However, you also keep reading and then he will point out how Cortes was a master of playing the game. He can’t be both. At least, not with how Restall himself wants to paint him.

Secondly, and oh man this is a big mistake, most of the book looks at everything BUT the actual meeting. Restall jumps around and spends actually very little time on the actual meeting.

I am all for reevaluating history with a discerning eye. But Restall seems to only want to see a different view as opposed to having the evidence to back it up.

I also found the whole thing to be a tremendous slog. It would be one thing if I merely disagreed with the thesis and conclusions. However, this book is also not entertaining. That is a feat as this meeting had amazing amounts of drama around it.

Cortes was a real psycho though. No arguments there.


Don’t bother. Buy this instead.

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When Montezuma Met Cortes by Matthew Restall