True story of the conquest of New Spain

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The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (Spanish original title: Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España ) is a written eyewitness account of the Spanish conquest of Mexico 1519–1521 by Bernal Díaz del Castillo .

Editorial history

The first indications that Díaz del Castillo was working on the work came in the mid-1550s. According to his own statements, Bernal Díaz finished work on his work in 1568, more than 40 years after the conquest. The work was sent to Spain in 1575, but was not published until 1632 - long after the author's death.


Although he wrote the work at a great distance from the narrated events, Bernal Díaz del Castillo succeeds in bringing the conquest of Méxiko to life before the eyes of the readers. For this he uses a simple, direct and effective narrative style. Díaz del Castillo emphasizes the importance of the “common soldier” - as he sees himself - within the conquest. He explicitly opposes a historical work by Francisco López de Gómara ( The Conquest of Mexico ), which in his opinion emphasized the merits of Hernán Cortés too one-sidedly .


As the only eyewitness report besides the letters to Charles V by Hernán Cortés , the work of Bernal Díaz del Castillo is the main source for the conquest of Mexico. Bernal Díaz del Castillo reports in much more detail on individual aspects of the conquista , for example on the local translator Malinche . Although Díaz del Castillo the conquest as a participant almost sanction must , especially the more or less objective consideration is surprising: Díaz del Castillo criticized in addition to some customs of the Indians (human sacrifice, etc.) and his Spanish compatriots for their sometimes very brutal methods of punishment and Execution of insurgent indigenous people. Only the portrayal of Hernán Cortés is strongly turned into the positive: Cortés comes off significantly better in del Castillo's work than is historically proven. The captain general is consistently portrayed as a brave, noble and loyal servant of the Spanish crown who only has the best for the Indians in mind.


  • Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492–1582): History of the Conquest of Mexico . Ed .: Georg Adolf Narziss. Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-458-32767-3 .