The Conquistadors, like most human phenomena, were the product of history. They were Spaniards and they explored and conquered new worlds for the glory of Godand their own profit in the early 1500s. Behind them they had centuries of constant fighting to clear their Iberian Pninsula of the Morrish invaders.
Them were men trained in war, crusaders in their own land who had pushed the infidel breeding kingdoms and principalities as they advanced. The result was that their nobility were little better than armed and castled warlords. And then, in 1492, it was all over, the last Morrish stronghold taken. At the beginning of the sixteenth century Spain had newly emerged as a nation. The eight-hundred-year crusade was at an end, and her chivalry, born to the saddle and the sword, and burning with a wild religious fervour, was suddenly unemployed. The Italian wars provided an immediate outlet, but Spain's geographical position pointed inexorably west, to the new world Columbus had recently discovered.
The men who had fought their last battle against the Moors turned soldiers of fortune and followed the sailors across the sea to seek out new infidels and blaze a trail of murder and heroism that is unique in the history of European peoples. Their lust for gold was infinite, their religious fervour genuine. This strange mixture of motive, their fantastic fortitude in the face of the most frightening terrain and the most appalling odds, their ability to carve their way by guile and force through armies two hundred times their number, requires explanation. Otherwise all that is contained in this account of the conquistadors is incredible.
As always in history, geographical position and the nature of the country played a dominant role. The Iberian Peninsula is the ultima thule of Western Europe, its coast line part...