He was Chief Chronicler of Castile and the Americas during the reigns of Philip II and Philip III.
Cristóbal Pérez Pastor called him the "prince of the historians of the Americas". He is considered the most prolific historian of his era, and his works also include a general history of the world, a history of Portugal, and a description of the Americas. His output also features translations of works from Italian and Latin into Spanish, and a translation of his own Descripción de las Indias Occidentales ("Description of the West Indies") into Dutch.
Herrera is not given much value by modern historians. A standard Spanish reference work describes him as "an official historian, who was not impartial... [He was] an opportunist, a schemer, and greedy...
He plagiarized entire works which were unpublished at the time... He had no interest in Native American civilization and therefore never dealt with it.