HST2028: Tenochtitlan, City of Blood and Flowers: Aztec Society in the Early Sixteenth Century

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader: Dr Claudia Rogers (2018-19)  Dr Caroline Pennock (2019-20)



Pass in at least two of the Level One modules History Units HST112-121.


Module Summary

Since the devastating arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519, the history of the Aztecs has been haunted by the spectre of human sacrifice. But their unique island-capital was not only a centre for spectacular religious bloodshed, but also a sophisticated metropolis, and home to a very civilized and familiar society of educated individuals and loving families. Attempting to recover the history of this complex indigenous culture, this document option examines life in Tenochtitlan at the time of the Spanish arrival through the records of the remarkable encounter between the Aztecs and Spanish, along with pre-conquest archaeological and visual sources.



This module aims to introduce you to life in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in the early sixteenth century and to the complexities of accessing indigenous Amerindian histories, through an examination of primary historical documents and sources.


Teaching and Assessment

The module will be taught through a series of weekly lecture workshops and seminars, supported by extensive online resources. The lecture workshops will introduce you to the basic historical and historiographical context and prime you on pertinent issues and sources. They are an efficient way of providing information, encouraging ideas and guiding students' private study. Some of these sessions will take a straight-forward lecture format, but most will expect students to contribute through presentations and discussion engaging with key questions. Seminars will provide opportunities for you to present your ideas and interpretations to the wider group. They will be based on systematic study of primary sources prepared in advance and will involve a wide range of student-led activities and discussions in order to enhance team-working, presentational and interpretative skills, while involving you in intensive engagement with practices of source criticism. All teaching will utilise primary sources and documents which can help in understanding Aztec culture and mentalities.

Further guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Selected Reading

  • Inga Clendinnen, Aztecs: an interpretation (Cambridge, 1991).
  • Caroline Dodds Pennock, Bonds of Blood: Gender, Lifecycle and Sacrifice in Aztec Culture (Basingstoke, 2008; paperback 2011).
  • Richard F. Townsend, The Aztecs (London, 2000).


Intended Learning Outcomes
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