Victors and Vanquished Critical Book Review

Below is a general outline of how to write a critical book review. Since you are not writing on a

historical novel, you will have to adapt this general outline for writing a critical review of

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“Victors and Vanquished.” The “Victors and Vanquished” contains a 28-page introduction by

the editor, Stuart Schwartz, followed by excerpts from Bernal Díaz’s “The True History of the

Conquest of New Spain” and selections from “The Florentine Codex” by Sahagún. There are also

some excerpts from a few other 16

th

century accounts (including the letters of Cortés). I want

you, however, to focus on the excerpts from Díaz and the Florentine Codex by Sahagún. Before

treating the primary sources, I want to see a critical engagement with, and review of, the

Introduction by Schwartz, and especially his analysis of the Spanish and Indigenous historical

sources. A well-written critical review requires an analysis of the historical context of the work

under review. In order to present the material in the proper historical context, I advise you to

make use of my lecture, “The Florentine Codex and Imperial Censorship” from week 8. The

lecture, “The Defense of Empire” from that week is not necessary but may also be helpful. In

addition to the lectures, I also strongly recommend that you read the Adorno essay, “The

Encomendero

and His Literary Interlocutors” from week 6. If you have not yet read this essay, it

deals with Bernal Díaz and his work “The True History of the Conquest of New Spain.” Above all

else, I want to see you treat the work within the context of the history of “The Polemics of

Possession” and the question of the difficulty of historical sources. What do you see as the

broader projects behind Díaz constructing his work the way he does, and how is Sahagún’s

work situated with the historical moment? How do the two works differ? What do you find

compelling in the works, and what are you suspicious of in them? I want to see you develop a

clearly articulated thesis about the work with a concluding paragraph on your thesis.

The paper

should be four to six pages in length, although longer papers are ok as long as they are well-

written and I enjoy reading them! Good luck!