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The European discovery of the Americas and the subsequent colonization of that land by Europeans was the most consequential occurrence of the last millennia. Two men prominent in that discovery’s opening events were Christopher Columbus and Hernando Cortés.
“Sword of Empire: The Spanish Conquest of the Americas from Columbus to Cortés, 1492-1529,” by Donald E. Chipman, tells the story of these two men. It explores the events of the first forty years of the Spanish acquisition of the American possessions.
Columbus opened the Age of Exploration. Cortés opened the Age of the Conquistador, where Spanish freebooters conquered the great empires of North and South America. Together the men form a set of bookends in the story of the Americas. Columbus departed the New World for the last time in 1504, dying in 1506. Cortés arrived at Santo Domingo, the colony founded by Columbus in the year of Columbus’s death. This allows Chipman to follow the thread of the opening years of Spain’s American adventures using these two as his focus.