The Golden Empire by Hugh Thomas
Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America

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Synopsis

From a master chronicler of Spanish history comes a magnificent work about the pivotal years from 1522 to 1566, when Spain was the greatest European power. Hugh Thomas has written a rich and riveting narrative of exploration, progress, and plunder. At its center is the unforgettable ruler who fought the French and expanded the Spanish empire, and the bold conquistadors who were his agents. Thomas brings to life King Charles V—first as a gangly and easygoing youth, then as a liberal statesman who exceeded all his predecessors in his ambitions for conquest (while making sure to maintain the humanity of his new subjects in the Americas), and finally as a besieged Catholic leader obsessed with Protestant heresy and interested only in profiting from those he presided over.

The Golden Empire also presents the legendary men whom King Charles V sent on perilous and unprecedented expeditions: Hernán Cortés, who ruled the “New Spain” of Mexico as an absolute monarch—and whose rebuilding of its capital, Tenochtitlan, was Spain’s greatest achievement in the sixteenth century; Francisco Pizarro, who set out with fewer than two hundred men for Peru, infamously executed the last independent Inca ruler, Atahualpa, and was finally murdered amid intrigue; and Hernando de Soto, whose glittering journey to settle land between Rio de la Palmas in Mexico and the southernmost keys of Florida ended in disappointment and death. Hugh Thomas reveals as never before their torturous journeys through jungles, their brutal sea voyages amid appalling storms and pirate attacks, and how a cash-hungry Charles backed them with loans—and bribes—obtained from his German banking friends.

A sweeping, compulsively readable saga of kings and conquests, armies and armadas, dominance and power, The Golden Empire is a crowning achievement of the Spanish world’s foremost historian.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Hugh Thomas

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Hugh Thomas is the author of The Spanish Civil War, Conquest, and many other books. A former Chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies (U.K.), he was made Lord Thomas of Swinnerton in 1981. He is currently a University Professor at Boston University. He lives in London.
 
Published August 23, 2011 by Random House. 672 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Golden Empire

Kirkus Reviews

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Thomas ably covers the debate between those who argued for the humanity of the Indians and those who thought them “bestial and ill-intentioned.” Ultimately, the Emperor’s appetite for gold and silver to finance his wars against the French and Lutherans and pay off his lenders undercut any noble i...

Aug 09 2011 | Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

Publishers Weekly

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One of history's greatest upheavals plays out as melodrama and picaresque in this rousing saga of the founding of Spain's Latin American empire. Picking up after Cort%C3%A9s's capture of Tenochtitl%C3

Apr 04 2011 | Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

The New York Times

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“The Golden Empire” — a misnomer, because the realm was actually held together by the discovery, in Bolivia and Mexico, of vast silver deposits — covers the period between Hernando Cortés’s conquest of the Mexica (the Aztecs, the more familiar name for this alliance of three native nations, is a ...

Sep 16 2011 | Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

Publishers Weekly

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Picking up after Cortés's capture of Tenochtitlán in 1522, National Book Award–winning historian Thomas (An Unfinished History of the World) follows the tiny bands of conquistadores as they fan out across two stunned continents, recounting the subjugations of Guatemala and the Yucatan, Pizarr...

Apr 04 2011 | Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

The Wall Street Journal

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Brendan Simms reviews "The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation
of America."

| Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

The Wall Street Journal

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In "The Golden Empire," Mr. Thomas takes the story forward to include the conquest of Peru and Chile right up to the death of Charles V in the mid-16th century.

Aug 20 2011 | Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

Bookmarks Magazine

Thomas brings to life King Charles V—first as a gangly and easygoing youth, then as a liberal statesman who exceeded all his predecessors in his ambitions for conquest (while making sure to maintain the humanity of his new subjects in the Americas), and finally as a besieged Catholic leader obses...

Aug 16 2011 | Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

The New Yorker

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Aug 29 2011 | Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

Fred Beauford

Book I is entitled “Valladolid and Rome,” Book II, “Peru,” Book III, “Counter Reformation, Counter Renaissance,” and Book IV, “The Indian Soul.” Of these four books I found Book II on the conquest of Peru of the greatest interest.

Feb 03 2013 | Read Full Review of The Golden Empire: Spain, Cha...

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