top of page

Could The Aztecs Ever Have Defeated The Spanish Conquistadors? - A Historical What-If with Dominic Sandbrook

Late last year, we were lucky enough to interview Dominic Sandbrook – best-selling author, top historian, iconic podcaster, and possessor of dulcet tones Chatting with Dominic is one of the highlight of our years, no matter the topic, he’ll wow us with fantastical historical trivia. Trivia which we’ll later outrageously pass off as our own during dinner conversation.

Dominic’s latest book in his awesome ‘Adventures in Time’ history series is; ‘The Fall of the Aztecs’. It’s a phenomenal read for children and grown-ups and we give it two thumbs up (the highest score we can possibly give on account of only having two thumbs).

We got to ask Dominic loads of questions about the Aztecs (and he gave us loads of awesome answers too!) But for this entry, we thought we’d just concentrate on one Aztec-related question, one of the great what-ifs of history: ‘Was there any way that the Aztecs could have been triumphant in their struggle with the Spanish, or would history always play out with the defeat of the Aztecs?’

“A brilliant question.” Says main-man Dommy Sand (we’re just trying the nick-name out) “One of the key reasons the Spanish win is that the peoples of Mexico are so divided. There are rival kingdoms who hate the Aztecs far more than they hate the Spanish. That would always be the case. So any European group landing in Mexico would always have found people keen to fight the Aztecs with them. There’s also the fact that the Spanish have a massive technological advantage. You might think I’m talking about their guns, but their guns are worthless. Often they just explode in their faces. They do have cannons, but in a battle, they take an age to wheel into place and nearly as long to fire a single shot. It's just such a faff and a hassle, and, if the gunpowder is damp, the cannon won't go off. So it's not the guns.”

“The key technological advantage they have is their steel swords. The Aztecs do not have steel swords. Instead, they have clubs that are studded with shards of volcanic glass called obsidian and they can really do some damage. But a Spanish soldier, if they’ve got a sword, which is very light, well they can absolutely make mincemeat of an Aztec warrior. Any European army or force would have had a huge advantage in a battle. The Europeans also have one other advantage, and that is disease. Possibly as many as nine-tenths of the Aztec people who die are killed by smallpox, a horrible disease that was always going to arrive with the Spaniards. Smallpox emerged everywhere in the Americas and killed colossal numbers of people. So I think the Aztecs always faced a really, really tough struggle.”

Thank you Dominic, that’s an historical what-if answered with aplomb!


To find out more about the fascinating history of the Aztecs – including Gods, Emperors, Sacrifice and Conquistadors – be sure to buy ‘Adventures in Time: Fall of the Aztecs’.

Here’s the booktastic blurb:

'An invisible tremor ran through the Aztecs on the rooftops, a breathless gasp of excitement. On the edge of the city the drummers struck up their rhythm. They were coming...'

With its vast cities, soaring pyramids and glittering treasure, the Aztec Empire was one of the greatest civilizations in the world, at once beautiful and terrible. At its head was the Emperor Montezuma, master of millions, who spoke with the voice of the gods and fed the sun with the blood of his prisoners. Yet Montezuma was troubled by terrifying omens. And when Spanish explorers landed on his shore to seek their fortunes, nothing would ever be the same again...

The Adventures in Time series brings the past alive for twenty-first century children. These stories are every bit as exciting as those of Harry Potter or Matilda Wormwood. The only difference is they actually happened...


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page