A Spanish historian; born at Cuellar, in the province of Segovia, in 1559; died at Madrid, 27 March, 1625. He was a great-grandson of the Tordesillas who was put to death by the Comuneros at Seville. He studied in Spain and Italy, and became secretary to Vespasiano Gonzaga, a brother of the Duke of Mantua, who was afterwards Viceroy of Navarre and Valencia, and who recommended him to Philip II in the last year of that monarch's reign. Philip appointed him grand historiographer ( cronista mayor ) of America and Castile, and he filled that office during part of his royal patron's reign, the whole reign of Philip III, and the beginning of that of Philip IV. At his death his body was conveyed to Cuellar, and interred in the church of Santa Marina, where his tomb is still to be seen.
His most famous work is the "Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Océano" (General History of the deeds of the Castilians on the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea), divided into eight periods of ten years each, and comprising all the years from 1472 to 1554. This work was printed at Madrid in 1601; reprinted by Juan de la Cuesta in 1615; revised and augmented by Andrés González and published at Madrid by Nicolas Rodríguez in 1726, and at Antwerp, by Juan Bautista Verdussen, in 1728. Worthy of note is the "Description of the West Indies", in the first volume of his work, which was translated into Latin and published at Amsterdam, by Gaspar Barleo, in 1622, a French version being published at Paris in the same year. In 1660 there appeared a French translation of the first three decades of his "Historia" by Nicolás de la Corte. In writing his great work Tordesillas made use of all the public archives, having access to documents of every kind. It is evident in his writings that he had to deal with a large number of historical manuscripts, and contented himself with relating events as he found them recorded. A great part of his work is more or less a transcript of the History of the Indies left by the famous Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas , though expurgated of wellnigh everything unfavourable to the settlers. A painstaking and conscientious investigator for the most part, his style does not correspond to his other admirable qualifications. He was a learned and judicious man, though, particularly in the later decades, somewhat prone to overpraise the conquerors and their exploits.
In addition to that already mentioned, his most important works are: "A General History of the World during the time of Philip II from the year 1559 to the King's death"; "Events in Scotland and England during the forty-four years of the lifetime of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland" (Historia de lo sucedido en Escocia é Inglaterra en los cuarenta y cuatro años que vivió Maria Estuardo Reina de Escocia); Five books of the history of Portugal and the conquests of the Azores in the years 1582, 1583; "History of events in France from 1585 to 1594" (a work published in Madrid in 1598, but suppressed by command of the king); "A Treatise, Relation, and Historical Discourse on the Disturbances in Aragon in the years 1591 and 1592" (Tratado, relación y discurso histórico de los movimientos en Aragon en los años de 1591 y 1592); "Commentary on the deeds of the Spaniards, French, and Venetians in Italy, and of other Republics, Potentates, famous Italian Princes and Captains, from 1281 to 1559"; "Chronicle of the Turks, following chiefly that written by Juan Maria Vicentino, chronicler to Mahomet, Bajazet, and Suleiman, their lords" (unpublished); various works translated from the French and Italian, preserved in the National Library at Madrid.
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