Hernando Cortes and the Aztec Civilization
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Hernando Cortes and the Aztec Civilization

The Amazing Story Concerning the Collision of Spanish Conquistadors Against the Aztec Empire.
4.3 (63 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
4,831 students enrolled
Created by Gerald Franz
Last updated 12/2014
English [Auto-generated]
Price: Free
  • 4 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • After viewing this course, students will understand how the Mexica came to occupy their Island on Lake Texcoco, along with an understanding of their society, culture, politics, and military.
  • After viewing this course, students will understand how the Spanish became interested and involved in the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico.
  • After viewing this course, students will be able to describe the main weapons used by both the Spanish and the Mexica.
  • After viewing this course, students will be able to describe the person of Montezuma II, and his regal splendor and court practices.
  • After viewing this course, students will be able to explain how Hernando Cortes was able to ally the Spanish with many towns against the ruler Montezuma II in Tenochtitlan.
  • After viewing this course, students will be able to relate the political and military struggle between the Spanish Conquistadors and the Mexica people under Montezuma II.
  • After viewing this course, students will be able to describe Malinche, Cortes’ translator and mistress, and her great contributions to the Spanish conquest.
  • After viewing this course, students will be able to explain several of the important changes in the region of Mexico since the Spanish conquest.
View Curriculum
  • Students just need the ability to view and hear video lectures.

This course will look at the Spanish Conquistador, Hernando Cortes, focusing upon his expedition to Mexico. The course will begin with lectures introducing the Mexica civilization, followed by an introduction to the Spanish enterprise in the New World. Connections will be made so that students will understand how the Conquistadors knew of Mexico and of their great wealth, and how Hernando Cortes came to be chosen as the leader of the expedition to find and conquer this people. This course will survey in some depth the collision of the Spanish Conquistadors with the Mexica civilization under Montezuma II. Primary sources are often quoted or paraphrased to bring the students into the spirit of the times. The persons of Hernando Cortes and Montezuma II are often viewed and compared in this struggle. The person of Malinche is also occasionally discussed, as she provided a great advantage to the Spanish. The many twists and turns in this drama are truly fascinating, and illustrative of many aspects of human nature. Other topics are explored as they add light to the story, such as the weaponry of the Spanish then, famous art representations, and the travel, water and food distribution of the Mexica within the city of Tenochtitlan. The coverage will also include the many military battles fought by Hernando Cortes, not only against the Mexica, but against other people groups in the area. There are several lectures at the end that will treat the legacy and conclusions of the conflict between the Spanish Conquistadors and the Mexica people. The course comprises 34 video lectures, using voice narration with over 500 Powerpoint slides. Frequently there are supplementary videos, web links, or additional Powerpoint slides to enhance the coverage. The time to complete the video lectures is about 4 ¼ hours. The course is intended for those High School age and up (though serious Junior High School students will benefit also), and requires just the ability to view and hear video lectures.

Who is the target audience?
  • This course is for all who love adventure stories from history. This course includes a lot more than just military history.
Compare to Other Hernando Cortes Courses
Curriculum For This Course
34 Lectures
8 Lectures 52:41

This lecture will introduce how I will be presenting this course, including my historical approach. I will also introduce some of the main sources I used in this study. Welcome aboard!

Introduction to the Course

In this lecture I will introduce the Mexica, or the Aztecs, especially their history. I will also discuss how they came to rule over the many cities and towns in that region. Last, I will look at their ingenious agricultural and waterway systems. They truly were an amazing civilization!

The Aztecs (Mexica)

This lecture will describe the highly organized and productive capital city of Tenochtitlan, including their skillful use of water, their estimated population, their schools, market, and food. I will also look at other aspects of their culture, including their ball game and the temple complex.

The City of Tenochtitlan

I will be taking two lectures to describe the majesty and kingdom of Montezuma. In this first part, I will paraphrase a lot from the letters of Cortes to King Charles of Spain, and how Cortes described the great Montezuma II.

Montezuma II Described by Hernando Cortes

In this second lecture on Montezuma, I will turn to one of Cortes' officers, Bernal Diaz. Diaz later wrote a complete history of these times, including more interesting information concerning Montezuma. In this lecture, I will be paraphrasing Diaz concerning the greatness of this monarch.

Montezuma II Described by Bernal Diaz

In this lecture, I will survey the many omens the Mexica observed that seemed to foretell disaster to their civilization. I will also describe their fear that one day a powerful god named Quetzalcoatl would return and take control. These omens and this story will play an important role in the collision between the Mexica and the Spanish.

Omens of Disaster

This lecture will survey the religious system of the Mexica, which revolved around human sacrifice. The human sacrificial system was especially repulsive to the Spanish, when they came to Tenochtitlan.

The Religion of the Mexica

This lecture will present the background to the whole Spanish presence in the New World, beginning with Christopher Columbus. The early expeditions to the Mayan Yucatan will be covered, and how they pointed the Spanish to the Mexica.

The Spanish Enterprise
Cortes and His Quest
3 Lectures 19:33

In this lecture, I will describe how Hernando Cortes came to the New World, and how he was chosen to lead the expedition to find the wealthy Mexica kingdom. Already, we will see that Cortes is an extremely intelligent and shrewd man.

Hernando Cortes

This lecture will describe the main weapons used by both the Spanish and the Mexica at this time. The Spanish weapons will be extremely advanced compared to what the peoples of Mexico used. The use of gunpowder and horses were especially frightening to the peoples of the New World.

Their Weapons of Warfare

Through this lecture we will see how the Spanish fared among the peoples on the Yucatan. The Spanish had to fight the Tabascans, but were able to make peace with the Totonacs. One of the servant women given to Cortes was Malinche, who would be vital to the Spanish cause because of her ability to speak the language of the Mexica.

On the Yucatan Peninsula
Cortes and Montezuma in Communication
8 Lectures 52:58

In this lecture, I will describe the beginning of many delegations sent by Montezuma to Cortes. All of these delegations brought rich gifts, but also demanded that the Spanish do not approach the capital city.

Ambassadors from Tenochtitlan

This lecture will describe the confusion by Montezuma concerning these strange visitors to his kingdom. He does not know if they are gods or humans. Either way, their arrival in the city would probably be a disaster for Montezuma. More gifts come to Cortes, with the ultimatum given to take the gifts and leave.

Montezuma's Ultimatum

This lecture will describe how Cortes was able to convince his army to continue the quest for Tenochtitlan, despite Montezuma ordering them not to approach the city. Cortes was able to officially ally with the Totonac people, and place the new township of Villa Rica. This town will be his home base of operations.

Cortes Responds to the Ultimatum

In this lecture, Cortes makes very shrewd decisions that communicate to Montezuma that the Spanish are friendly, and only want to visit. Montezuma responds by sending more gifts. There is an interesting political game between Montezuma and Cortes.

More Communication with Montezuma

In this lecture, Cortes receives important news from Cuba, which prompts him to begin sending letters to the King. With the first letter, he sends all of his accumulated treasure, to the chagrin of his army. However, the ship stops in Cuba, against Cortes' orders, so the governor Velasquez is informed of Cortes' actions against him. There will be trouble ahead from Velasquez.

Letters to Spain

In this lecture, we will see that some of the Conquistadors loyal to the governor of Cuba attempted to steal one of Cortes' ships, and seize the treasure ship bound for Spain for governor Velasquez instead. Cortes finds out about the mutiny, punishes the men, and scuttles all of his ships. The Conquistadors have no choice but to proceed on with their mission.


In this lecture, the Spanish are attacked by the Tlaxcalans in a several day battle. Finally, Cortes is able to convince the chief that they have a common enemy in Montezuma, and the Tlaxcalan warriors become an important part of Cortes' military force.

Journey to Tlaxcala

In this short lecture, Cortes must travel through Cholula, but Montezuma has ordered the Spanish ambushed there. Cortes finds out about the ambush through Malinche, and Cortes attacks first, along with his allies. The massacre at Cholula frightens Montezuma even more, as Cortes gets closer to the capital city.

Violence at Cholula
Cortes and Montezuma in Tenochtitlan
5 Lectures 49:12

As Cortes nears the capital city, Montezuma sends a double out to meet him, hoping the Spanish will leave after the meeting. But the allies with Cortes inform Cortes of the ruse. Cortes finally meets Montezuma, and Montezuma lodges all of the Spanish and his allies within Tenochtitlan. Both parties are afraid for their future.

Cortes and Montezuma at Tenochtitlan

The Spanish realize that they are in grave danger, and arrest Montezuma after hearing he has ordered some Spanish killed at Villa Rica. With Montezuma as hostage, they hope to preserve their lives.

The Arrest of Montezuma

In this lecture, I will describe the tenuous situation with Montezuma under house arrest. The Mexica were growing suspicious of their leader. Bernal Diaz provides very interesting details concerning Montezuma's frame of mind during this time, and the Spanish attitude toward the king.

Montezuma as Hostage

Cortes hears the alarming news that more Spanish Conquistadors have arrived, and correctly guesses they have been sent by governor Velasquez of Cuba to arrest Cortes and and take control of the expedition. Montezuma is also working with the new Conquistadors, who are under the leadership of Panfilo de Narvaez. Montezuma eventually urges Cortes to join his fellow Conquistadors, and take their ships home. Instead, Cortes splits his forces and prepares to attack Narvaez.

The Arrival of Narvaez

In this lecture, I will describe how both Cortes and Narvaez were able to learn important intelligence information against each other. Cortes attacks Narvaez at night while it is raining, and defeats his forces. Narvaez is jailed, and Cortes persuades the Conquistadors under Narvaez to re-enlist in Cortes' army, and share in the riches of Tenochtitlan.

Conquistador vs Conquistador
The Struggle Between the Two Civilizations
6 Lectures 36:02

In this lecture, we will see how Pedro Alvarado, left in command at Tenochtitlan, attacked many Mexica at a festival, believing that an attack was planned upon the Spanish immediately after the festival. This caused a huge riot in the city. Cortes, along with his new army returns to Tenochtitlan as the Mexica plan to attack the Spanish soon.

Alvarado at Tenochtitlan

This lecture will describe how Cortes asked Montezuma to try and calm the raging crowds outside the Spanish lodgings. When Montezuma is revealed, the Mexica mortally wounded him, as their faith in him was gone. With Montezuma their hostage dead, the Spanish knew they did not have long before a full attack upon them.

The Death of Montezuma

In this lecture, I will describe how Cortes and his men attempted to escape the city around midnight, but the alarm was sounded, and a fierce battle ensued on the narrow causeways leading out of the city. Cortes loses about half of his army, and most of those who survive are wounded, including Cortes himself.

La Noche Triste - The Night of Sadness

This lecture will describe how Cortes and his army were attacked as they attempted to travel back to Tlaxcala to recover. Soon the Spanish encountered a large force of Mexica with some of their allies in the Battle of Otumba. Despite the condition of the Spanish army, the Spanish win this battle and return safely to Tlaxcala to recover from their many wounds.

The Battle of Otumba

In this lecture, I will describe how the Spanish recovered in Tlaxcala, while smallpox broke out in the capital city, brought there by one of Narvaez' men. Harsh treatment of the tribute cities helped drive some of these cities into an alliance with Cortes. Cortes builds pre-fab ships to bring to the outskirts of the capital city.

Plans for Counterattack upon Tenochtitlan

This lecture will explain how Cortes was able with his allies to successfully besiege and conquer the capital city of Tenochtitlan. With the help of these ships, the Spanish were able to cut off food and water from those in the city, and there were many battles. Finally, the people of Tenochtitlan surrender to Cortes.

The Siege and Fall of Tenochtitlan
Conclusions and Legacy
4 Lectures 35:20

This lecture describes how the Spanish took over the region and rebuilt the capital city. However, a huge treasure shipment back to the king of Spain was intercepted by French pirates. In the aftermath of the fall of Tenochtitlan, there were other epidemics of disease, and the demography began to change as the Spanish intermarried with the local women. There were also many cultural contributions of the Mexica to the Spanish and European cultures.


This lecture will describe the future of the main characters of this story, including Malinche, Cortes, Bernal Diaz, Diego Velasquez, Panfilo de Narvaez, Pedro Alvarado, and Charles V of Spain.


This final lecture will cover the history and legacy of the capital city of Tenochtitlan, focusing upon current archaeology there. As well, I will provide a final conclusion to this story.

Final Thoughts

This is an optional oral quiz. I will ask 28 questions, and give a little time for students to answer each question. Students may need to stop and start the recording for more time before I provide the answers.

Oral Quiz
About the Instructor
Gerald Franz
4.6 Average rating
436 Reviews
12,056 Students
9 Courses
Professor of history

Dr. Franz has been teaching history for 32 years in various colleges, and sometimes to high school students. He has written a number of historical dramas for his history students, and after one season's performance, he received a letter of commendation from former president George Bush, Sr. for making history alive to students today. He has also taken history students on a number of field trips to various important historical locations. He hopes to continue putting short history courses on Udemy in order to share his favorite historical events. He currently teaches many online history courses for various universities, along with various live classes in his area.

He has been married for over 33 years to Wendy, and they have a son and daughter, both adults. They also have a few cats and a big German Shepherd dog. In their spare time, they love to walk, jog, swim, and ride their bikes.