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William H. Prescott
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Author
    (May 4, 1796-January 28, 1859)
    Born in Salem , Massachusetts
    Birth name was William Hickling Prescott
    Renowned American historian and Hispanist
    Wrote 'History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic' (3 volumes, 1838), 'The Conquest of Mexico' (3 vol., 1843), 'History of the Conquest of Peru' (2 vol., 1847) and 'A History of the Reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain' (3 vol., 1855–58)
    His weak eyesight was attributed to his being hit with a breadcrumb during a food fight as a student.
    He admitted in his introduction to 'Conquest of Mexico' to not having 'corrected, or even read, my own original draft.'
    His visual impairment has led to romantic embellishments of his condition (Samuel Eliot Morison would claim in the Atlantic Monthly that Prescott had an artificial eye).
    His admission led many to believe that he was completely blind (he wasn't).
    He had never visited archaeological sites in Mesoamerica, but wrote histories of Inca and Aztec culture.
    He was one of the most prolific and well-read writers in the United States, and yet he had little if any familiarity with American literature.
    This lack of familiarity resulted in his writing a clueless biography of Charles Brockden Brown for Sparks' 'Library of American Biography,' relying mostly on other people's writings.
    'Conquest of Mexico' and 'Conquest of Peru' both contained many inaccuracies but were held up as the authoritative texts for most of the 19th Century.
    He has been accused of glossing over Ferdinand and Isabella's involvement in the Spanish Inquisition, the Expulsion of the Jews, and atrocities towards the American Indians.
    Along with fellow historians Francis Parkman and Frederick Jackson Turner, he is largely forgotten by the American literary community due to the obsolete nature of their once-valuable work.
    His middle name is cringe-worthy (Hickling).
    He was good friends with Washington Irving and renowned Hispanist, George Ticknor (who wrote his acclaimed 1867 biography).
    He had a photographic memory.
    Historians credit him as the first American 'scientific historian.'
    There were few available sources on Mesoamerican culture for Prescott to work with for his research, so it is remarkable that he got as much as he did right, even given the inaccuracies.
    Leo Tolstoy included 'Conquest of Mexico' in an 1891 list of books essential for five stages of life (in Prescott's case, the second stage; ages 14 to 20).
    His first historical work, 'The History of Ferdinand and Isabella,' was an immediate hit both financially and critically, and it was deemed incredible that such high quality work could come from someone so young.
    He was a lively writer who rarely got credit for the prose in his Histories.
    It was said that a copy of 'Conquest of Peru' could be found on every American Naval fighting ship.
    He declined to write a history of the controversial Mexican American War, choosing not to attempt to influence the current events of the day.
    He died before finishing a four-volume biography of King Phillip II.
    He decided he wanted to become a Historian after reading Edward Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' as a student.
    He appears in Alice Provensen's 1995 children's book, 'My Fellow Americans' under the heading 'Writers, Historians, Journalists, and Playwrights.'

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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