Conquistadors with Michael Wood
One of the most significant events in the history of the world, the conquest of the New World by Spanish conquistadors in just a few years in the 16th century is also one of history's greatest adventures. The opening of the continent involved unparalleled journeys of exploration with exceptional bravery, endurance, greed, cruelty and suffering. Blending history, travel and adventure, this series follows four of these amazing tales: Cortes' dramatic conquest of the Aztecs in Mexico; Pizarro's overthrow of the Incas in Peru; Orellana's search for El Dorado and the discovery of the Amazon; and Cabeza de Vaca's first crossing of the North American continent.
Conquistadors with Michael Wood Previous Broadcasts
The Search for El Dorado (Episode #103)
KQED Life: Tue, Sep 20, 2016 -- 10:00 PM
Episode three begins in Quito, Ecuador, and relates the amazing story of the 16-month Spanish expedition (1541-42), led by Gonzalo Pizarro, to find El Dorado, the mythical land of gold. Crossing the Andes with pack animals, Wood and his team hack a path through the forests, following in Pizarro's footsteps to the Coca river, where they build a balsa raft and sail down to the river Napo, following the route of the conquistadors. There, on Christmas day 1541, the Spanish expedition split, with 60 men under Francisco Orellana sailing ( contrary to orders) all the way down the Amazon to the sea in a makeshift boat: an achievement that was "less of a journey, more of a miracle." They were the first outsiders to see the interior of Amazonia and the first to discover and travel the length of the river. On their journey, they encountered unknown empires and vast populations that were later wiped out by disease and subsequently forgotten. The program recounts Orellana's story, as well as the tale of the retreat of the army, under Orellana's cousin and boyhood friend, Gonzalo Pizarro, an almost Shakespearean tale of revenge recorded in their letters and the diary kept by the expedition.
- KQED Life: Wed, Sep 21, 2016 -- 4:00 AM
The Conquest of the Incas (Episode #102)
KQED Life: Tue, Sep 13, 2016 -- 10:00 PM
Six years after the fall of Mexico, the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, exploring south of the equator, uncovers another civilization unknown to the European world: the empire of the Incas, which extended 3,000 miles from Ecuador to Chile. Michael Wood recounts Pizarro's daring march into Peru with fewer than 200 men and tells the almost incredible tale of his capture of the Inca Atuahuallpa and his promise to ransom himself with a roomful of gold. Traveling across the Peruvian desert along ancient Inca roads, Wood climbs the Andes with a train of llamas, continues to the ancient city of Cuzco, the Incas' "navel of the earth," where massive Inca buildings still stand, and to the stupendous Sacred Valley ruins, including Macchu Picchu. Telling the story of the Inca resistance, and using Inca accounts discovered only in modern times, Wood journeys on over the passes of the high Andes, up 17,000-foot glaciers and finally down into tropical rainforests on an epic trek to the lost city of the Incas, their last refuge, at Vilcabamba, which was identified only 30 years ago.
- KQED Life: Wed, Sep 14, 2016 -- 4:00 AM
The Fall of the Aztecs (Episode #101)
KQED Life: Tue, Sep 6, 2016 -- 10:00 PM
The first program tells the story of the conquest in 1519-21 of the Aztec empire in Mexico by Hernan Cortes and 500 Spanish conquistadors. Michael Wood follows the path of gambler and womanizer Cortes from his home in Spain to the Mayan pyramids on the shores of the Yucatan, on through the tropical forests of Tabasco to the snow-capped volcanoes of Mexico. Trekking over the mountains in torrential storms, Wood considers how a small band of Spanish adventurers could overthrow an empire of millions, and why the Aztec ruler Montezuma could have believed the Spanish were gods. In modern Mexico City, Wood pieces together the climax of the tale, using dramatic and little-known Aztec eyewitness accounts of the final battle between the Spanish and Aztec armies, a battle that changed the course of history. Before the only surviving portrait of Cortes painted from life, Wood returns to the riddle of the gambler who achieved his dream but in the process destroyed a civilization.
- KQED Life: Wed, Sep 7, 2016 -- 4:00 AM