HERRERA Y TORDESILLAS, ANTONIO DE (1549-1625), Spanish historian, was born at Cuellar, in the province of Segovia in Spain. His father, Roderigo de Tordesillas, and his mother, Agnes de Herrera, were both of good family. After studying for some time in his native country, Herrera proceeded to Italy, and there became secretary to Vespasian Gonzago, with whom, on his appointment as viceroy of Navarre, he returned to Spain. Gonzago, sensible of his secretary's abilities, commended him to Philip II. of Spain; and that monarch appointed Herrera first historiographer of the Indies, and one of the historiographers of Castile. Placed thus in the enjoyment of an ample salary, Herrera devoted the rest of his life to the pursuit of literature, retaining his offices until the reign of Philip IV., by whom he was appointed secretary of state very shortly before his death, which took place at Madrid on the 2gth of March 1625. Of Herrera's writings, the most valuable is his Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos en las islas y tierra firme del Mar Oceano (Madrid, 1601-1615, 4 vols.), a work which relates the history of the Spanish-American colonies from 1492 to 1554. The author's official position gave him access to the state papers and to other authentic sources not attainable by other writers, while he did not scruple to borrow largely from other MSS., especially from that of Bartolome de Las Casas. He used his facilities carefully and judiciously; and the result is a work on the whole accurate and unprejudiced, and quite indispensable to the student either of the history of the early colonies, or of the institutions and customs of the aboriginal American peoples. Although it is written in the form of annals, mistakes are not wanting, and several glaring anachronisms have been pointed out by M. J. Quintana. " If," to quote Dr Robertson, " by attempting to relate the various occurrences in the New World in a strict chronological order, the arrangement of events in his work had not been rendered so perplexed, disconnected and obscure that it is an unpleasant task to collect from different parts of his book and piece together the detached shreds of a story, he might justly have been ranked among the most eminent historians of his country." This work was republished in 1730, and has been translated into English by J. Stevens (London, 1740), and into other European languages.
Herrera's other works are the following: Historia de lo sucedido en Escocia e Inglalerra en quarenta y quatro anos que vii'io la reyna Maria Estuarda (Madrid, 1589); Cinco libros de la historia de Portugal, y conquista de las islas de los Azores, 1582-1583 (Madrid, 1591); Historia de lo sucedido en Francia, 1585-1594 (Madrid, 1598); Historia general del mundo del tiempo del rey Felipe II, desde 1559 hasla su muerte (Madrid, 1601-1612, 3 vols.); Tralado, relacion, y discurso historico de los movimientos de Aragon (Madrid, 1612); Comentarios de los hechos de los Espanoles, Franceses, y Venecianos en Italia, etc., 1281-1550 (Madrid, 1624, seq.). See W. H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico, vol. ii.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)