Lecture 8: Cortes and the Aztecs

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    Dr. J,

    in Lecture 8 you said that when Hernando Cortes was trying to conquer the Aztec empire, he made alliances with the Aztecs’ tributaries. But concluding a political alliance seems to require complex communication, and I guess Cortes and the natives had no common language. Do we know anything about how the negotiations were conducted?

    If I were to spend a few months in Russia and couldn’t take any formal lessons in Russian, I probably wouldn’t be able to translate in political negotiations between Putin and Obama.

    Jason Jewell

    The classic history describing the conquest (and which is available online) is William Prescott’s “History of the Conquest of Mexico.” I believe I link it in the resources for that lecture, and it discusses the translation issue.

    Jason Jewell

    But to save you the time . . . the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_conquest_of_the_Aztec_Empire) discusses the process by which Cortes used Mayan translators: Spanish ==> Mayan ==> Aztec language.


    Thank you!

    I think this is the most relevant chapter in Prescott’s book for my question.

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