THE DISCOVERY OF SOUTH AMERICA by J. H. Parry

THE DISCOVERY OF SOUTH AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The discovery and conquest of Latin America have been described and analyzed so frequently that it is difficult to add anything substantially new to this subject--and nigh impossible to match Samuel Eliot Morison's magisterial history for narrative power. J. H. Parry is a Harvard professor of oceanic history and affairs who has published numerous studies on 16th-century European expansion and the Spanish Empire. The present book, a concise overview of more than one hundred years (1492-1616) of voyages to Latin America, appears to be a synthesis of his previous works. The narrative is accompanied by 120 contemporary maps, engravings and drawings, and the text includes evaluations of the authenticity, style, and objectivity of eye-witness accounts, which are extensively quoted. (It is surprising to learn how much of our knowledge comes from secondary sources.) The first of the book's three sections deals with 15th-century cosmographic knowledge and theories, with discoveries of Atlantic islands, and with Columbus' voyages. The second is devoted to the conquests of the Indian empires in Mexico and Peru, and to the penetration into the regions of present-day Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia. The last third describes the explorations of the main South American rivers--Amazon, Orinoco, and Rio de la Plata system (which are often not included in the histories of that period)--and of the Strait of Magellan. Party's book is useful because of its panoramic range and the quantity of original documents included, but unfortunately it is written in a dry, flat language that never captures the drama of events. Parry also fails to search for motives or to pose questions, making this very much an added entry in the field.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1979
Publisher: Taplinger