A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the by Amy Butler Greenfield

By Amy Butler Greenfield

Within the 16th century, one of many world's most valuable commodities used to be cochineal, a mythical pink dye valuable by way of the traditional Mexicans and bought within the nice Aztec marketplaces, the place it attracted the eye of the Spanish conquistadors. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, generating the brightest, most powerful crimson the area had ever visible. quickly Spain's cochineal monopoly was once worthy a fortune. because the English, French, Dutch, and different Europeans joined the chase for cochineal -- a chase that lasted for greater than 3 centuries -- a story of pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies unfolds. an ideal crimson inspires with variety and verve this heritage of a grand obsession, of intrigue, empire, and event in pursuit of the main fascinating colour on the earth.

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Extra info for A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire

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Such laws were a sore point, at least in parts of Germany, where during a revolt in 1525 peasants demanded, among many other things, the right to wear red. From the vantage point of our own time, when red is everywhere, it can be hard to comprehend such longing. But to the people of Renaissance Europe, the desire was real—and growing. As Europeans continued to prosper, their hunger for the color increased. The fact that vivid red cloth remained rare only whetted their appetites all the more. Red cloth was rare chiefly because red dyestuffs were so scarce.

In Spain, 58 A Perfect Red encomenderos who abused their power could be brought to heel by the Crown, but in the faraway American islands no such limits applied. Far from the king’s reach and crazy for gold, encomenderos forced the islands’ native people to leave their families and search for the precious metals in rivers and streams. Others repeatedly tortured, starved, and raped the people in their charge, turning the sunny Caribbean into a charnel. ” an appalled Dominican priest asked his Hispaniola parishioners in 1511.

And since Spain was three thousand miles away, Cortés was, for the time being, virtually a law unto himself. Not everyone supported Cortés’s bold move, but the new chief justice found it easy enough to silence his critics: any conquistador who opposed him was chained in irons. Velázquez, however, proved a far more powerful and implacable enemy. As Cortés began his ambitious campaign against the Aztecs, the Cuban governor sent an army after the renegade officer—an army which Cortés promptly defeated.

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