Picture from the Codex Borgia, one of the best Aztec history books ever made

11 Best Aztec History Books to Learn About This Amazing Empire

Are you fascinated by the Aztec empire and Mesoamerican history, and looking for the best books to learn more about it? Then look no further! Here we have compiled a list of the very best Aztec history books — from engrossing histories that cover, in great detail, their culture, language, military, economy, and more, to engaging accounts of archaeological discoveries uncovering long-hidden secrets.

Whether you are looking for an introduction to the Aztecs or want a deeper dive into their fascinating legacy, there is something on this list for everyone.

1. The Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

Cover imager of "Fifth Sun," one of the best Aztec history books.

Camilla Townsend’s Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs is an incredible book that looks at both familiar and newly uncovered perspectives of Aztec history. 

Beginning in the days of ancient Mexico, this book expands beyond textbook versions of the Aztecs by weaving in Aztec accounts of personal stories discovered in recently translated primary sources to reveal more details about this civilization’s incredible past.

Spanning her account from the fabled days of the Aztecs wandering through the deserts of the southwest, through to the Spanish conquest of the sixteenth-century, Townsend has crafted one of the most engaging and readable pieces of scholarship I’ve ever encountered.

Townsend offers her readers an unforgettable look into the Aztec empire and its world that allows us to gain greater insight into the people who lived during this time and how they moved through history. 

Whether you are a history buff or just looking for more knowledge on Aztec culture, this engaging revisionist history is a must-read book on Aztec history.

This also made our list of best Native American history books!

2. When Montezuma Met Cortes

Cover image of "When Montezuma Met Cortes," one of the best Aztec history books.

If you’re interested in Aztec history and want to take a deeper dive into the Mesoamerican culture, then When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History by Matthew Restall is an accessible and humanized depiction of Montezuma, his people, and their struggle to survive amid the Spanish conquest.

This book sheds new light on the famous encounter between Hernán Cortés and Montezuma II from an Aztec perspective, painting a complicated picture of this monumental moment in history. 

Restall shows how the Aztecs, the radiant splendor of their empire, and the foreignness of their ritual practices fascinated the Spaniards. But it wasn’t just the fascinated outsiders who found themselves intrigued… so too did Montezuma.

Drawing on evidence from the Aztec codices and other records, as well as accounts by Spanish conquistadors and colonists, Restall invites readers to look beyond traditional interpretations and blaze new trails in the history of the Aztec empire. He offers a new, and much needed, interpretation of this era of Mexico’s history, and these two leaders’ roles in it.

Overall, When Montezuma Met Cortés is one the best Aztec history books to add your collection!

This also made our list of best Native American history books!

3. The Broken Spears

Cover image of "The Broken Spears," one of the best Aztec history books.

The Broken Spears by Miguel León-Portilla is a must-read for anyone interested in Aztec history. It provides an unflinching look at the Aztec Empire’s rise and fall, with all its major figures and significant events on full display. 

The book utilizes a compilation of texts written by the Aztecs themselves to bring life to the Aztecs’ experience during the Spanish conquest – both their triumphs and tragedies. It offers readers a valuable insight into Aztec culture that cannot be found in other Aztec history books. 

If you’re interested in learning more about this pivotal period in Aztec history, pick up The Broken Spears and see why it has been a critically acclaimed icon for decades!

4. Collision of Worlds

Cover image of "Collision of Worlds," one of the best Aztec history books.

Collision of Worlds by David M. Carballo is groundbreaking and one of the best Aztec history books.

Carballo compares the Aztec and Spanish societies and how they each evolved in the centuries leading up to their epic confrontation.

Carballo’s journey through Aztec literature bridges history with modern archaeological analysis in order to bring clarity and context to some of the most important Aztec texts. 

With meticulous research, Carballo brings Aztec history to life, uncovering hidden secrets and providing insight into Aztec mythology, culture, spiritual beliefs, and influence on multiethnic societies. 

This book is an invaluable resource for students of Aztec culture and those interested in exploring their rich history.

5. The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City

Cover image of "The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City."

Aztec Tenochtitlan was a powerful city-state located in central Mexico. It stood as an example of Aztec grandeur, culture, religion and achievements before its fall in 1521.

The Aztecs were renowned for their technological prowess, artistic skill, and their expansive trade network and political allegiances that brought them wealth, fame, and power.

Barbara E. Mundy recaptures this history in her book The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City

She traces Aztec origins from the ancient Aztecs to their ultimate end in 1521 at the hands of Cortés and his band of conquistadors during the Spanish conquest, who were aided by Aztec rivals like Tlaxcala.

Mundy deftly draws on this history demonstrates how neither the Aztec nor their capital disappeared after the Spanish conquest. Rather, Aztec men and women remained in the city now dubbed Mexico City and played vital roles in rebuilding the metropolis.

Her closely detailed account of Aztec civilization makes her book one of the definitive Aztec history books for readers interested in learning about this remarkable culture and the radiant splendor of their capital.

6. The Aztecs

Cover image of "The Aztecs"

Aztec history books don’t come much better than Richard F. Townsend’s The Aztecs

This classic piece of Aztec scholarship dives deep into Aztec culture and its various sources, offering up a comprehensive look at Aztec civilization from the days of ancient Mexico to the Aztec Empire to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. 

Townsend dives deep into Aztec mythology, beliefs, practices, and societal issues, as well as illustrating their sometimes tenuous relationship with other indigenous people in Mexico, which became crucial when Europeans arrived in the person of Hernán Cortés.

He also looks closely at Aztec art and crafts, providing great detail on their architecture and craftsmanship that allow readers to form a more vivid understanding of this ancient civilization. 

Definitely check out The Aztecs for a fascinating tour through Aztec life!

7. The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript

Cover image of "The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript."

The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript  is a full-color facsimile of the Aztec history books that were constructed in the early sixteenth-century. 

This beautiful copy of the original work (which is housed in the Vatican library) preserves Aztec writing and illustrations, making it easier to understand Aztec culture.

It allows experts and armchair historians alike to examine the vibrant images and study Aztec mythology. 

The Codex also contains information about religious rituals and cosmology as well as calendars, geographic coordinates, astronomy and astrology. 

Thanks to this incredible recreation of the original Aztec account, you can now learn more about Aztec history from the comfort of your own home!

8. Aztec and Maya Myths 

Cover image of "Aztec and Maya Myths"

Aztec and Maya Myths by Karl A. Taube is a great resource for anyone looking to explore Aztec mythology, culture, and history, as well as Mayan gods and myths. 

It is packed with fascinating Aztec history books and provides a deep dive into Aztec mythology and Mayan gods. 

This book offers readers an engaging way to learn about Aztec mythology, beliefs, rituals, symbols, landscapes, and deities. It covers Aztec religion from creation myths to common rituals and it’s full of diagrams and illustrations which bring the Aztec past to life. 

Aztec and Maya Myths by Karl A. Taube allows readers to develop a more vivid understanding of Aztec history and culture through its detailed accounts of Aztec gods, tales, and traditions.

9. Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind

Cover image of "Aztec Thought and Culture"

Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind is a groundbreaking Aztec history book written by the renowned scholar Miguel Leon-Portilla.

Published in 1969, this seminal work dives into Aztec mythology, philosophy, and culture with an in-depth study of Aztec religion, political organizatoin, family structure, and more.

To create this work, Leon-Portilla drew from accounts written by the first generation of Aztecs to live under Spanish rule. In these works they recorded the oral histories of their people, utilizing the Latin alphabet to write in Nahutal, the language of the Aztecs.

Through careful examination of Aztec artifacts and written works, Leon-Portilla reveals thought-provoking insights into Aztec life that are still relevant today.

An oldie but a goodie, this remarkable book offers readers an extraordinary opportunity to gain an appreciation for Aztecs’ intellectual achievements and understand intricate aspects of Aztec mythology and culture that may otherwise remain unexplored.

10. 1491

Cover image of "1491"

1491 by Charles C. Mann offers a highly engaging look at indigenous cultures and societies across the Americas, including the Aztecs, in a way few other books have.

After reading classic Aztec history books, he delves further and seeks out archaeologists and anthropologists from around the world in order to uncover some of the lesser known aspects of Aztec life – such as their population count and way of life before Christopher Columbus stumbled his way across the Atlantic.

He gives readers an interesting and complete picture of what Aztec civilization could have been like, if not for European influences.

Mann’s writing style makes 1491 an eye-opening and enjoyable read for anyone interested in Aztec culture.

This also made our list of best Native American history books!

11. Tlacaelel Remembered: Mastermind of the Aztec Empire

Cover image of "Tlacaelel Remembered"

Susan Schroeder’s Tlacaelel Remembered: Mastermind of the Aztec Empire offers insightful and engaging perspectives on Aztec civilization that have rarely been explored in past Aztec history books.

She focuses on the life of Tlacaelel, a powerful Aztec chief who dramatically reformed Aztec politics and changed history forever.

With her expertly crafted writing style and attention to detail, Schroeder engages readers with her narrative and captivates them with her vivid descriptions of the Aztecs’ political machinations. She expertly explains the role Tlacelel played in these plans, and how he can be considered the architect of his people’s empire.

This groundbreaking book provides an important contribution to Aztec literature, forging an incredibly authentic connection between contemporary readers and this rich history.

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