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Racha Salha 02/09/14 HIST 125 Paper Draft #1: Reading and Interpreting Historical (Primary) Documents The European colonization

of the Americas is a major event of the 16th and 17th centuries, which has started with the Spanish in 1512, when they invaded the West Indian Islands looking for gold but also determined to expand Christianity into the New World. This paper will be about comparing three documents that tell the story, from different points of view, of the Spanish arrival, and their encounter with the great Aztec empire that was in place at the time in what is now known as Mexico. Two of those documents are from Spanish points of view, while the third one is of Aztec origin. Even though the events told in those documents are similar and take place around the same time-1510s-1520s-, they differ by the way and the time the description is made, their tone, their purpose, but also by the point of view from where they are told. Based on all that, the document that appears to be the more reliable could be the one written by Bernal Diaz, a Spanish soldier who took part in the conquest of Mexico, led by the conquistador Hernan Cortes. Indeed, Diaz seemed very sincere in his writing, and he gave a lot of relevant details. He described things as they were, instead of trying to exaggerate them by raising the Spanish's profile. Finally, even if he was impressed by the Aztecs, his tone tended to be more neutral that the two other authors.

I- The Similarities:

1) Descriptive texts - The three documents are mainly descriptive, even if the Diaz's document is much more descriptive and detailed than the others.

2) Same period - Hernan Cortes wrote his report to the king of Spain in 1519. Diaz's report was written years after the conquest of Mexico, although the events he is actually describing took place in 1519 too. The third text was written in the 16th century, around the same time since it described the encounter between the Aztecs and the Spaniards. 3) Similar events -The three documents are mainly about the arrival of the Spaniards to the New World, and their encounter with its habitants, particularly the Aztecs and their chief, Montezuma.


1) Tone: -The Diaz report looks more credible because it is much more detailed that the others, and because he was a simple soldier, he seems more sincere and less concerned than his captain, Cortes. He also described the Aztecs community as an impressive empire, which had its own rules, customs, and beliefs. Diaz showed them as independent and proud people. He even thought that they could be superior to the Spanish. -Cortes: his letter is more formal, seems less credible, too exaggerated. He pointed out the fact that the Spanish were much stronger than the Indians, described the New World's habitants as savages who were quickly influenced by the Europeans and under their thumb. -The Indian's document shows that the Aztecs were very impressed by the Europeans, as much as they impressed them. The description they made of the encounter is not exactly the same as the one made from the Spanish’s point of view, since they looked much more impressed and astonished than in Diaz's report. 2) Period

- Even if the fact that the Indian document and Cortes' report were written earlier than Diaz's account, and so that this could be a sign of more credibility, Diaz's words still look believable, first because he had witnessed all the events he was telling, and second because his story is very detailed. (How comes he remembers so many details when the events he is telling actually took place many years ago? Maybe he took notes at the time? This is one of the only point that could be questioned.) 3) Points of view: - On the other hand, both Diaz and Cortes were Spanish, what means that both documents were written by the invader's point of view, while the third one was from the victim's points of view. 4) Purpose: -The Aztecs wrote to give their point of view. Maybe the rest of their writing was a testimony of the Spanish's cruelty toward them all along the colonization, but in this document they were mainly trying to point out the big differences between their living style, and the Spanish's one. - Cortes wrote his report trying to impress the king and assure him that everything was going fine. He wanted him to believe in the Spanish's success, so he might be exaggerating and only telling the Spanish's triumph by ignoring their defeats. -Diaz's report may be the more believable because he was not the captain of the expedition, and his writing was not personally destined to the king. He was telling the facts from a more neutral point of view.

Conclusion: - Re-state thesis statement. - Counter-argument + opening final sentence.


intro = 46/50 thesis = 23/25 outline = 24/25 ---------------------------TOTAL = 93 / A

Very nice!