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"When Montezuma Met Cortés" By Matthew Restall


This interview was originally broadcast in May, 2020.


On November 8, 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés first met Montezuma, the Aztec emperor. 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 Cortés’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 of colonial invasions across the hemisphere.

But is that actually what happened?

In his book, When Montezuma Met Cortes, Matthew Restall offers a dramatic rethinking of the encounter between Montezuma and Hernando Cortés that completely overturns what we know about the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

Matthew Restall is a historian of colonial Latin America. He is the author of dozens of essays and 20 books, including Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, The Conquistadors, and The Black Middle. An award-winning writer, historian, and Guggenheim Fellowship winner, Restall is the director of Latin American studies at Penn State.