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Restrepo, José Manuel (1781–1863)

Restrepo, José Manuel (1781–1863)

José Manuel Restrepo (b. 30 December 1781; d. 1 April 1863), Colombian public official and historian. Born in Envigado in the province of Antioquia, Restrepo studied law in Bogotá and participated in the scientific and intellectual ferment of the late colonial period. He was active in the independence movement, for example, as secretary to the dictator Juan del Corral in his native province. During the Spanish reconquest he was allowed to stay in Antioquia as a tithe official (juez de diezmos), but fearing reprisals, he fled to Jamaica (1816) and then the United States (1817). After the victory at Boyacá he returned to New Granada, where he served as governor of Antioquia and deputy to the Congress of Cúcuta.

Restrepo's highest official position was minister of the interior of Gran Colombia (1821–1830). He assisted Vice President Francisco de Paula Santander while he was acting chief executive, and then Simón Bolívar once he assumed the presidency. As a political moderate, Restrepo exercised a restraining influence on the two leaders when a bitter feud arose between them. After the breakup of Gran Colombia, he held various positions in independent New Granada, most notably that of director of the Bogotá mint.

The lasting importance of Restrepo is due above all to his stature as the classic historian of Colombian independence. With unrivaled access to official documentation and personal knowledge of people and events, he produced the ten-volume Historia de la revolución de la República de Colombia, published in Paris in 1827. An expanded second edition appeared in 1858. A sequel, the two-volume Historia de la Nueva Granada, was published posthumously (1952–1963). He also left a four-volume Diario político y militar (1954) relating all manner of developments in Gran Colombia and New Granada. Though Restrepo eschewed blatant partisanship, his perspective is clearly conservative, distrustful of rapid innovation, and disdainful of the lower social orders.

See alsoAntioquia; Colombia: From the Conquest Through Independence; Colombia: Since Independence; Gran Colombia; New Granada, United Provinces.


Frank Safford, The Ideal of the Practical: Colombia's Struggle to Form a Technical Elite (1976).

Juan Botero Restrepo, El prócer historiador, José Manuel Restrepo (1781–1863), 2 vols. (1982).

Germán Colmenares, "La 'Historia de la revolución,' por José Manuel Restrepo: Una prisión historiográfica," in Germán Colmenares, Zamira Díaz De Zuluaga, José Escorcia, and Francisco Zuluaga, La independencia: Ensayos de historia social (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Adelman, Jeremy. "Colonialism and National Histories: José Manuel Restrepo and Bartolomé Mitre." In Interpreting Spanish Colonialism: Empires, Nations, and Legends, Christopher Schmidt-Nowara and John M. Nieto-Phillips, editors. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

Múnera, Alfonso. "El Caribe colombiano en la república andina: Identidad y autonomía política en el siglo XIX." Boletín Cultural y Bibliográfico 33:41 (1996): 29-49.

Tovar Zambrano, Bernardo. La colonia en la historiografía colombiana. Bogotá: Carreta, 1984.

                                      David Bushnell

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