Spanish Empire—Book Summaries

    Spain and Portugal     Exploration     South America and Caribbean     Mexico

Spain and Protugal

Portugal   by Edith A. Browne
This geographical reader is set in the early 20th century and gives a romantic portrait of country and city life in Portugal before ancient customs and ways of life gave way to modernism. A short history of Portugal that emphasizes its contributions to exploration is given, but most of the book discusses the art, culture, legends, folktales, towns, ports, and customs of Portugal. 37 credits

Spain   by Edith A. Browne
This book depicts the geography, culture, and society of Spain, rather than attempting to cover Spanish history in a thorough manner. It includes chapters on Spanish family life, religion, holidays, the country, climate, landmarks and cities of Spain, important Spanish products and industries, and Spanish customs and pastimes. 45 credits

Stories of Don Quixote   by James Baldwin
This adapted version of Cervantes' classic Don Quixote was rewritten to make it accessible to grammar school children. The tone and humor of the original is well preserved. Cervantes' original is famous for its portrayal of quirky characters, and Baldwin's book does an excellent job of faithfully representing these fascinating townsfellows.98 credits

History of Spain   by Frederick Ober
This short history of Spain was written by an author who wrote a series of biographies featuring the Spanish Explorers of America. It covers all the important events of Spanish history briefly from the age of the Phoenician and Carthaginian Traders to the Spanish-American War of 1898. It provides an engaging introduction to Spanish history for the intermediate reader.88 credits

Greatest Nations - Spain   by C. F. Horne
This concise history of Spain is lavishly illustrated and tells the story of the rise of the Spanish nation from the age of the Romans and Visigoths through the Carlist Wars, and the complicated political machinations of the 19th century. The most outstanding feature of this book is its generous and spectacular illustrations. The history itself is 65 credits

Child's History of Spain   by John Bonner
This concise and well illustrated history of Spain begins with stories from Visigoth Spain, and ends in the late 19th century, immediately before the Spanish-American war. It covers the history of the Moors in Spain and the Reconquista thoroughly, and fairly. Much attention is paid to the exploits of Columbus and Cortes, but most other Spanish explorers are not discussed in detail. The final portion of the book is dedicated to the decline of Spain under the Hapsburg and Bourbon monarchs.158 credits

Story of the Cid   by C. D. Wilson
The Legend of the Cid was based on a real character in medieval Spain, who has been honored by all Spaniards as a model of chivalry. This delightful rendition is tells the complete tale of the Cid, a noble Christian knight who served a faithless king. Driven into exile by jealous courtiers, he conquered much of Moslem Spain, including the great city of Valencia, and won admiration from both his Christian and Moslem subjects by his bravery and fair dealing.90 credits

Life of Ignatius of Loyola   by F. A. Forbes
Ignatius of Loyola was first a soldier from a noble family who fought for the Duke of Navarre. It was only while recovering from a serious wound that he came to understand the spiritual meaning of suffering and dedicated his life to Christ. The Jesuit order he founded demanded an unprecedented degree of education, obedience, and sacrifice, and was enormously influential in turning the tide of the reformation in Europe. 36 credits

Life of Teresa   by F. A. Forbes
Teresa of Avila is known both for her profound spiritual writings and for her work reforming the Carmelite orders of her day. A devout and sincere Christian from her early youth, she sought convent life but was distressed at the lax lifestyles tolerated at many convents. Her reforms were opposed by many, but she eventually won over even many of her greatest detractors by her sincere faith and great tact.38 credits

Romance of Spanish History   by John S. C. Abbott
This detailed and entertaining book gives an excellent overview of much of Spanish history, including characters sketches of many of the most famous people in the history of Spain. It covers the earliest periods of history, including the Roman conquest, and continues until the mid nineteenth century. 190 credits

Historical Tales - Spanish   by Charles Morris
This collection of romantic stories from Spain starts with the good King Wamba, one of the last Visigoth kings. It follows the conquest of Spain by the Moors, the battle of Tours, and features heroes of the middle ages such Roderic, El Cid, and Ponce De Leon. It then follows the unified nation of Spain under Isabel and Ferdinand to the Spanish American War. Of particular interest are many stories of Moslem Spain and the fall of Granada. 130 credits

Isabella of Castile   by O. O. Howard
Much of this story of the life of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain is dedicated to military conflicts and civil wars that consumed much of the time and resources of the Spanish monarchs. As soon as Isabel came to the throne, the prince of Portugal challenged her claim, nobles tried to assert their independence, and the Moors threatened to revolt. Only through great perseverance and courage was Isabella able to quell rebellion and bring all of Spain under a single crown. 96 credits

Saint Ignatius of Loyola   by John Pollen
This short biography of Ignatius of Loyola gives the life of the saint, and tell the fascinating story of the founding and significance of the Jesuit order. It is greatly simplified and told in layman's terms, but still provides an accurate summary of his Spiritual Exercises, and explains the basis of many of the Jesuit disciplines and habits.54 credits

The War with Spain   by Charles Morris
Detailed, and well written history of the Spanish American War, authored shortly after the close of hostilities. Strongly presents the American case for the war, and provides much background in terms of the ongoing rebellions against the Spanish governments in Cuba and the Philippines which preceded the American invasion. Of particular interest are reports of Spanish atrocities against the native population of Cuba, which helped provoke an American declaration of War on Spain. 169 credits

The Moors in Spain   by M. Florian
A brief history of the seven hundred year reign of the Moors in Spain, from Tariq's conquest of the Visigoths at the Battle of Guadelete in 711 to the expulsion of the Moors from Granada in 1492. The chronology of the Moorish kingdom is in three parts: first, the Umayyad caliphs of Cordova, second, the period of decline following the successful reign of Almanzor, and finally the story of the kingdom of Granada, which was ruled by Christian kings for two hundred years.77 credits

Irving's Alhambra   by W. Irving
This version of Irving's Alhambra has been abridged and anointed for young people, but it still retains the charm as the original. Part travel log, part history, part legend, part fairy tale, the book records a year that Irving spent in Spain, at the great monument of Moslem Spain, the Alhambra at Granada. 129 credits


The Men Who Found America   by F. W. Hutchinson
This book provides an excellent introduction to the exploration of the Americas. It provides adventure packed short biographies of Columbus, Cortez, Pizarro, Hudson, La Salle, Balboa, De Vaca, Raleigh, Champlain, and many others. The author is very even handed in his treatment of explorers and Indians, and makes moral distinctions between the most abusive conquistadors, and the relatively noble missionary explorers.49 credits

The Story of Columbus   by G. M. Imlach
The Story of Columbus does not end when he discovered the American continents in 1492. In his lifetime he made four voyages to the New World and instead of enjoying honor and rewards, he suffered much due to jealous colleagues and scheming courtiers. The promise of gold brought out the worst in everyone, as this book, which retraces the years both before and after Columbus's great discovery, makes clear. The life of the great explorer provides a fascinating character study in a thoughtful manner appropriate for intermediate readers.35 credits

Adventures of Vasco da Gama   by George Towle
Vasco da Gama was the first European to sail around the cape of Africa to establish direct trade routes. The story of his initial journey sees him overcome tremendous hardships, including mutiny, disease, and treacherous Moorish traders, jealous of his designs. His story is no less interesting or significant than that of Columbus, and in his own age, he was just as famous and more successful politically than Columbus.92 credits

The Adventures of Magellan   by George Towle
The story of Magellan's voyage around the world is one of almost uninterrupted adventure and peril. His men faced harrowing hardships, storms, mutiny, disease, starvation, sunstroke, shipwreck, cowardice and desertion, treachery, savage warfare, and vicious national jealousies. Yet at great cost they prevailed over all obstacles and after three year's one of Magellan's ships returned to Spain with only 18 of the 250 who set forth. This book follows one of the greatest adventure stories of all time and introduces dozens of fascinating indigenous peoples the Spanish encountered in their voyages. 85 credits

The Adventures of Pizarro   by George Towle
Francisco Pizarro is generally held to be one of the most villainous of the Spanish conquistadors, but the full story of the conquest of Peru is of great interest. This book follows his adventures from an impoverished swine-herd of Spain to the most powerful governor in the new world. Pizarro became obsessed with the idea of conquering the Peruvian empire as a soldier under Balboa, and for almost twenty years worked tirelessly explore the region and raise resources for his invasion. The story of his adventures and conquests is filled with terrible hardships, enormous obstacles, astonishing bravery, vile treachery, murderous revenge, and hair-raising battles. 102 credits

Book of Discovery   by M. B. Synge
This book provides the complete story of the discovery of the world, from ancient Mediterranean sea-faring civilizations to exploration of the polar ice caps in the twentieth century. Every major explorer and discovery is mentioned, from the Phoenician voyages, to Alexander's campaigns in India, to Polo's journey to China, to the exploration of the new world, Africa, and the polar regions. 242 credits

Vasco Nunez de Balboa   by Frederick Ober
Balboa is most famous for discovering the Pacific ocean, but this was but one incident in a swashbuckling life. After running amok in Hispaniola, Balboa escaped from the island by stowing away in a barrel, and founded the first Spanish settlement in the region of Darien (modern Panama) by first battling, and then making alliances with several important chieftains. After making his famous discovery he lost control of the colony, and for the next few years was at loggerheads with the new governor Pedrarias, his arch-nemesis. It was a battle he ultimately lost, along with his head on the executioners block. 83 credits

Ferdinand de Soto   by Frederick Ober
Fernando de Soto made a name for himself as a young man, during the conquest of Peru under Pizarro. With the gains he made in Peru he equipped an expedition into the unknown regions of Florida and the Southwestern United States in hopes of discovering yet another empire, and more gold. After two years of fruitless wondering, and many encounters with Indian, de Soto discovered the Mississippi river, but failed to realize its significance, considering it only as an obstacle in his quest for gold and empire.85 credits

Columbus the Discoveror   by Frederick Ober
The life of Columbus encompasses much drama even in addition his seismic discovery of America. Through sheer determination and against all odds Columbus succeeded in his Quixotic quest to travel east by sailing west, but in many ways his victory was the beginning of his miseries. Even before he returned to Spain the intrigue, jealousies, and posturing began which were to make much of the rest of Columbus's life a misery. He sailed four times to the new world and each time made important discoveries, and yet continued to lose influence as jealous courtiers jockeyed for position, and conspired against him. 87 credits

Hernando Cortes   by Frederick Ober
The story of the Conquest of Mexico is the primary legacy of the life of Cortes, and it is one of the most riveting tales to be told in the history of the Americas. Cortes was an utterly fearless leader, who used diplomacy as well as military prowess to make critical alliances which enabled him to conquer a wealthy, sophisticated, empire of millions with only a few hundred Spaniards. But his story was not one of straight forward conquest, but rather, a complicated tale of intrigue, treachery, massacre, and dramatic escapes and reversals. One needn't admire his deeds to be held spellbound by the sheer audacity of his endeavors. 86 credits

Ponce de Leon   by Frederick Ober
Ponce de Leon is best known for his quixotic quest in search of the Fountain of Youth in Florida. The full story of his life, however, includes expeditions of conquest in both Hispaniola and Jamaica, and several expeditions in the region of the Bahamas and the coast of Florida. He was killed in battle with the war-like Caribs, who resisted the Spaniards with a ferocity unmatched by their docile Arawak neighbors. 83 credits

Ferdinand Magellan   by Frederick Ober
Ferdinand Magellan started his career at sea in company with Almeida on his expedition to the Malabar coast. There he distinguished himself, but made enemies so powerful that he found himself exiled from Portugal and in the service of King Charles of Spain. It was the Spanish Monarch, rather than the Portuguese King who procured the ships for his famous voyage around the world. Although Magellan himself died in the Philippines, he survived a mutiny, led his fleet around Cape Horn and crossed the Pacific before being killed in a battle with East Indian natives. 88 credits

Francisco Pizarro   by Frederick Ober
Of all of the Spanish Conquistadors, Pizarro is perhaps the most notorious for atrocities committed against the natives. The massacre of Caxamala, during which the Spaniards killed 4000 unarmed Incas and captured the Chieftain Atahualpa, led directly to the conquest of Peru with its rich gold and silver mines. What is less well-known is that Pizarro spent nearly a decade laying the groundwork for the invasion, gaining the resources necessary to conquer the region, and planning his invasion. Like many other conquistadors, he came to a violent end after a bold, but brutal career. 88 credits

Amerigo Vespucci   by Frederick Ober
Biography of Amerigo Vespucci that emphasizes Vespucci's relationships with Columbus, Ojeda, Ferdinand, and other important characters of the day, and provides excerpts from numerous original sources. 88 credits

Albuquerque   by Morse Stephens
This book presents the life story of Alfonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese admiral primarily responsible for establishing the Portuguese trading empire in India and the Spice Islands. Against great odds he led his forces against the dominant Arab traders of the region and within his short reign of six years had captured Goa and Malacca, and made the Portuguese the primary merchants in the region. 79 credits

South America and Caribbean

Panama   by Edith A. Browne
This book was written while the Panama canal, the most ambitious engineering feat in history up to its time, was under construction. The author presents the physical geography of the region, visits several important towns and cities, and gives a brief history before turning her attention to the progress of the canal. 48 credits

South America   by Edith A. Browne
This tour through all of the countries of South America begins in a rubber plantation in the Amazon basin. Other cities in Brazil are visited before embarking to Argentina. A cross country train ride takes us through the central regions of South America through Bolivia to the Inca country. We explore Columbia and Panama before ending our tour in the Guyana regions. 41 credits

Stories of South America   by E. C. Brooks
This book provides an excellent introduction to history of South America, with special attention to the 19th century. It introduces all the major heroes of South American independence in insightful detail, including Miranda, San Martin, Bolivar, O'Higgins, and Don Pedro of Brazil and provides a more thoughtful critique of the various republican factions that embroiled the continent, than some other histories. 96 credits

Gabriel Garcia Moreno   by Mrs. Maxwell Scott
Garcia Moreno was one of the most heroic, and certainly one of the most sincerely Christian leaders of South America during the 19th century. When most of South American had fallen into the hands of atheistic military barons who sought only to destroy the church and enrich themselves, Moreno fought opportunists on all fronts, resisted corruption, and reformed every aspect of Ecuadorian society according to Christian principles, before being brutally murdered by his Freemason enemies. 93 credits

Our South American Neighbors   by G. Southworth
This short geography book covers the basic history, physical geography, and economic development at the turn of the century, of each of the South American Republics. It provides very brief histories of most of the South American republics, but focuses much more on economics, culture, and geography. 67 credits

Jose de San Martin   by Anna Schoellkopf
This insightful biography tells the story of San Martin, who was just as important in establishing the independence of Latin America as Bolivar, but did not share his fame. His contributions to the independence of Argentina, Peru and Chile are covered, but San Martin's history ends in 1822 when he resigned his command in favor of Bolivar, in order to avert a civil war. San Martin was a wise and heroic figure who and accurately assessed the limitations of republican government in Latin America, but his warnings remained unheeded. 45 credits

Buccaneers and Pirates   by F. R. Stockton
This swashbuckling set of pirate tales makes for a grand feast of adventure stories. With chapters such as Masters in Piracy, A Pirate Potentate, and Villainy on a Grand Scale the author recounts the dastardly deeds and desperate feats of dozens of pirates who terrorized the Caribbean Coasts. There is no shortage of action in this book; most horrifying exploits are rendered in reasonably good taste, and many of the tales are surprisingly amusing. 101 credits

South America   by H. Butterworth
This book begins with an overview of South America under Spanish rule, but focuses mostly on the Wars of Independence from the age of Bolivar to Cuban Independence. The theme of the book is the popular struggle for liberty, so the wars of Liberation are emphasized most prominently, but the early history of Brazil and the South American republics is also given.134 credits

Historical Tales - Spanish American   by Charles Morris
This collection of stories from Latin America begins during the age of the Spanish Conquistadors and include lesser known tales such as Lantaro, the hero of the Araucanians, Hidalgo, Paez, and Cudjoe of the Maroons, as well as familiar stories of Pizarro and Cortez. The histories are continued all the way to the end of the 19th century, and the years prior to the Mexican Revolution. 129 credits

Buccaneers of America   by J. Esquemeling
First person account of many of the terrible exploits of the pirates of the Caribbean, with particular attention to the life of Henry Morgan. Written by a barber-surgeon who accompanied the pirates on several of their adventures. 91 credits

Simon Bolivar   by Guillermo Sherwell
Simon Bolivar is the South American patriot most often compared to George Washington, and he was certainly driven by some of the same political ideals. The circumstances he faced in attempting to unite the disparate colonies however, where entirely different and he ultimately failed in his attempt to create a 'United States' of South America, but not before helping to free five countries from Spanish rule. 90 credits

The Peruvians   by Arthur H. Noll
This book details the known history of the indigenous people of the Andes in South America, known as Incas, who were conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century. Their society was probably the most advanced of any in the western hemisphere before the Spanish arrived, yet it was still very primitive. Far from being a peaceful people the Incas were involved in many wars, and were in the middle of a major civil war when they were conquered by Pizarro. The book follows their history through the Spanish occupation to independence under Bolivar and other 19th century dictators.40 credits

South American Fighters   by Cyrus T. Brady
This book is from the American Fights and Fighters series and it features the most famous battles of South America. The conquests of Cortez over the Aztecs in Mexico, and the Conquest of the Incan Empire by Pizarro are given special attention.141 credits


Mexican Twins   by Lucy F. Perkins
Tonio and Tita are 8 year-old twins who live on a great hacienda. Their parents work for the Spanish senor who owns the estate, and Tita and Tonio help out around the homestead. While gathering firewood the twins overhear a rebel who is trying to raise an army to overthrow the government and return land to the common people. Will the twins father join the revolutionary army, and if so, what will happen to the family? Read their story to find out.54 credits

Into Mexico with General Scott   by Edwin Sabin
This work of historical fiction follows the American Army under Winfield Scott during the Mexican-American War. The protagonist is a young man who joins the army and serves under second Lieutenant U. S. Grant. With the rest of the U.S. army, he participates in the landing of U. S. ships at Vera Cruz, and the march of 200 miles inland in order to capture the Capital city of Mexico and force a surrender. 141 credits

Maximilian in Mexico   by George Upton
The tragic story of Maximilian of Mexico is one of political opportunism and rank treachery. Maximilian and his lovely wife Carlotta, who were pampered European royalty, were in no way prepared for the back-stabbing treachery from both Mexicans and Europeans which confronted them when they accepted the crown of the Mexico. 42 credits

The Boys' Prescott   by Helen Ward Banks
The Conquest of the Empire of the Aztecs by Cortes and his small band of conquistadors is one of the most dramatic and consequential tales in all history. This book tells the story in fascinating detail and is based on Prescott's famous and sympathetic account. The manner in which Cortes was able to rally his desperate band of Spanish followers, conquer and befriend dozens of neighboring tribes, and topple an aggressive empire with hundreds of thousands of warriors in arms, using both military and diplomatic means is worth telling in detail. The characters of all of those who played an important role in the drama--the hero Cortez, his translator and consort Marina, his generals Sandoval and Alvarado, his Spanish enemies Velasquez and Narvaez, the Aztec emperor Montezuma and his warriors and priests, and the Spaniards' Tabascan and Tlascalan allies are all portrayed with great depth and interest. A truly spellbinding story told with supreme insight. 139 credits

Missions of California   by W. H. Hudson
This short book tells the complete story of the founding of the Franciscan Missions of California under Junipero Serra and his followers. Only 80 pages long, it is lavishly illustrated and provides a short, balanced, and fascinating introduction to early California history.28 credits

Mexico   by M. D. Kelly
This thrilling account of the conquest of Mexico by Cortez and his band of conquistadors goes into enough depth to bring alive many of the important secondary characters, and recount the complicated goings-on between hostile tribes of natives as well as the back-stabbing and politicking of the Spaniards. Unlike modern accounts, which tend to simplistically moralize, this version simply recounts the entire complicated story, based directly on original sources. It fully attends to the tragedy of the circumstances, without demonizing either Spaniard or Aztec. 113 credits

A Short History of Mexico   by Arthur H. Noll
This history of Mexico from the earliest history of the Aztecs to the administration of Porfirio Diaz in 1900 is a thorough and well-balanced look at the troubled history of Mexico. It includes three chapters on the achievements of the Spanish Viceroys, a peaceful period frequently omitted entirely from Mexican histories, and presents a balanced rather than a partisan view of the century-long conflict between clerical and secular interests following Mexico's Independence from Spain.85 credits

History of Mexico   by Frederick Ober
This history of Mexico spends a good deal of time covering the history of the Ancient Mexicans, including the Aztecs and their predecessors, in great detail, before delving into the Spanish conquest, and its aftermath. The incidence covered include history up to about the turn of the 20th century, so ends near the beginning of the reign of Porfirio Diaz and does not include the Mexican Revolution of the 1920's. 218 credits

The Story of Mexico   by Charles Morris
This fascinating book provides an overview of the geography and culture of Mexico, and a history of the region from the time of the Ancient Aztecs until the Mexican revolution in the early twentieth century. The book was published before all of the events related to the Mexican revolution had come to a close, but the early years of the uprising, resulting from the exile of President Diaz and the assassination of his successor Madero, are given in detail, and the heroic feats of Pancho Villa, and other heroes of the revolution are well considered. 183 credits

From Empire to Republic   by Arthur H. Noll
This history of 19th century Mexico gives a fair and thorough report of the chaotic and tragically violent first century of Mexican independence. It delves much deeper into the complicated rivalries of those who sought to control Mexico and helps identify what the agendas of the competing factions really were. Unfortunately, it only follows Mexican history up through the reign of Porfirio Diaz and so does not deal with the Mexican revolution, but it provides an excellent background for the study of modern Mexico.136 credits

Junipero Serra   by A. H. Fitch
This biography of Junipero Serra recounts his experience founding missions along the California coast. It reveals a dedication and patience that almost surpasses belief, for he was met at every turn with both political and practical difficulties. This history draws heavily on original sources and provides a highly authentic portrait of the events surrounding the founding of the California missions, including insight into the lives of the native peoples of the region. 135 credits

The War with Mexico   by H. O. Ladd
This is a thorough and balanced history of the War between Mexico and America, written only twenty years after the conflict. It emphasizes the dubious political machinations that led to the war, and the dysfunctional condition of the Mexican government, as well as American feats of heroism. 105 credits

Highlights: Mexican Revolution   by J. L. McLeish
Most of the chapters in this book were originally published as articles in an American Masonic magazine, so they contain as much editorializing as they do history. They are high interesting, however, because the provide enormous insight in the philosophical secularism and extreme anti-clericism that characterized the "constitutionalist" political movement in Mexico. The books is *virulently* anti-catholic, in a manner that is no longer "acceptable" in mainstream publications, but its evident hatred of the Catholic Church genuinely reflects the sentiment of Masonic leaders during the period of the Mexican revolution. 92 credits