When Montezuma Met Cortés has already been reviewed in the New York Review of Books and is available as an audiobook. Not the fate of the average academic tome, the attention evoked by the book speaks to the authority and writing skill of Matthew Restall as well as the perennial interest scholars and general readers alike feel for its topic. The author argues that the traditional narrative of this meeting and of the subsequent “conquest” of the Mexica capital city—Tenochtitlan—amounts to a “mythistory” constructed by Hernando Cortés and other Spaniards, sometimes with indigenous participation. The main elements of this mythical history persist in academic interpretations and popular media, even as Restall and other scholars have debunked this received wisdom.

The mythistory consists of several key elements: First, Moteuczoma (a Nahuatl spelling) was weak and surrendered his rulership and empire without a struggle. Second, Cortés led a small army of Spaniards...

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