Cristián Roa-de-la-Carrera takes on the unenviable task of explaining a work that sought to improve Spain’s standing in the realm of public opinion in the sixteenth century, only to be discounted as the early modern equivalent of boosterism. Francisco López de Gómara was the secretary to Hernán Cortés who wrote what was to be an official history of the Indies in general and the conquest of Mexico in particular. Nevertheless, his account created such a furor that at least one other conqueror, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, old and infirm in Guatemala, was forced to pen an opposing view.

Roa-de-la-Carrera organizes his work into four rather large chapters, divided up into smaller thematic units. The first analyzes López de Gómara in terms of the political and historiographical issues of the time. López de Gómara saw history as an adjunct to statecraft and an essential part of governing,...

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