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The story ends in the late sixteenth century with Philip II’s expansion of his territory. By then the empire swept across the Americas to the Philippines and was the largest empire since the Romans. Maintaining it for three centuries was an unparalleled feat of bureaucracy. Thomas challenges historical views of the empire as unflinchingly cruel and rapacious, noting particularly the educational achievements of the Jesuits. It is a story in which conquistadores read romance novels, Indians pursue litigation to settle disputes with their conquerors. [Canadians please note – and committees convene to discuss the King’s right to invade China.]

Source: The New Yorker, September 7

 

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