The subject matter of this book is the story of the pre-Spanish peoples of Mexico, who with their neighbours the Maya were the most advanced of the American Indians. As it will be used here, the term Mexico will mean all of the land in that Republic which lies between the western border of the Maya and the northern frontier where Mexican farmers once met the nomadic tribesmen of the desert.
I have found it both feasible and justifiable to exclude the ancient Maya from this survey, although part of their territory was, in fact, within the boundaries of the present day Estados Unidos de México. The Maya civilisation of the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America was so extraordinarily complex that to do it justice would be impossible within the confines of the present volume. Those remarkable people would appear to have placidly remained within their own borders throughout the centuries, so that other American Indian cultures of the Republic can be considered quite independently without the problem of Maya influences seriously conflicting with the development of our theme.
Some may be disappointed to find the Aztec empire confined to a single chapter. 'Aztec' and 'Mexico' seem almost synonymous, but we now know that in the total span of man's occupation of that country, the Aztecs were late upstarts, their empire but a final and brilliant flicker before the light of native civilisation was put out once and for all. I have used the simpler rendering Moctezuma for the third and seventh Aztec kings in place of the more correct Motecuhzoma; the familiar 'Montezuma' of numberless boyhood romances is hopelessly incorrect.
A final matter which must be touched upon is the pronunciation of the very formidable-looking words and names of . . .