Gil Fortoul, José (1861–1943)

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Gil Fortoul, José (1861–1943)

José Gil Fortoul (b. November 1861; d. 15 June 1943), Venezuelan historian, writer, and politician. Gil Fortoul obtained his early education in El Tocuyo. After his early training in philosophy at the Colegio La Concordia, he left for Caracas in 1880 to study law, but eventually earned a doctorate in political science from the Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1885. He came in contact with the intellectual elements of the city and quickly gravitated toward positivist circles. Gil Fortoul traveled to Europe to fill various diplomatic posts for the government and remained there for ten years, during which he was intensely active intellectually.

Returning to Venezuela in 1897, Gil Fortoul collaborated on El Cojo Ilustrado, an important cultural magazine of the era. By government order he was given the task of writing a history of Venezuela. In 1902 he was dispatched to Europe, again on a diplomatic mission, and there wrote Historia constitucional de Venezuela (2 vols., 1907–1909). Upon his return to Venezuela in 1910, he joined a circle of intellectuals close to General Juan Vicente Gómez, and subsequently became engaged in important public duties. Over the next several years, he served as senator, minister of public education, and chargé d'affaires for the presidency. As plenipotentiary minister of Venezuela (1917–1924), he was responsible for, among other things, negotiating the border conflicts between Venezuela and Colombia. In 1932 Gil Fortoul became director of El Nuevo Diario, a government publication. He also served as president of the Venezuelan Society of International Law.

Gil Fortoul is the author of a dense intellectual opus. Among his most outstanding books are El hombre y la historia (1890), Filosofía constitucional (1890), Cartas a Pascual (1894), El humo de mi pipa (1891), and Historia constitucional de Venezuela (2 vols., 1907–1909).

See alsoGómez, Juan Vicente; Positivism.


Juan Penzini Hernández, Vida y obra de José Gil Fortoul (1861–1943) (1972).

Tomás Polanco Alcántara, Gil Fortoul: Una luz en la sombra (1979).

Elena Plaza, José Gil Fortoul: Los nuevos caminos de la razón, la historia como ciencia (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Cappelletti, Angel J. Positivismo y evolucionismo en Venezuela. Caracas: Monte Avila Editores Latinoamericana, 1992.

Harwich Vallenilla, Natalie. "Venezuelan Positivism and Modernity." The Hispanic American Historical Review 70 (May 1990): 327-344.

Rivas Rojas, Raquel. "Del criollismo al regionalismo: Enunciación y representación en el siglo XIX venezolano." Latin American Research Review 37 (2002): 101-128.

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Gil Fortoul, José (1861–1943)

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