Venezuela's Canonical History Reference Book is Now Online

Before there was Wikipedia, there was the Fundación Polar’s Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela. Now every Venezuelan history nerd’s favorite is one click away.

I’m a lawyer by training, but a history buff by passion. I even teach a course on the History of Law. When I learned that the year 2015 marked the 300 years anniversary of the beginning of the teaching of Law in Venezuela, I knew I had to write about it.

It was a Spanish professor Antonio Álvarez de Abreu who started legal studies in our country. Not many people know who this person is. And maybe I wouldn’t know, either, if I didn’t have Foundation Empresas Polar’s Dictionary of History of Venezuela on my desk. Looking through it, I was enthralled to find Astrid Avendeño Vera had been busy writing about him for the Dictionary. I found myself diving in to the minutiae of this forgotten luminary’s life and times…

El 25 de marzo de 1715 envía al Rey un Memorial, donde describe las relaciones entre los funcionarios peninsulares y la oligarquía criolla, así como los mecanismos utilizados para amparar el mal funcionamiento fiscal y del cuerpo de funcionarios administrativos. Paralelamente a su labor oficial, desde agosto de ese año ejerce por designación del obispo Francisco del Rincón, la cátedra de Instituta en el Colegio Seminario de Santa Rosa.

A classic DHV moment!

For a generation of chamos who love this kind of thing, the Diccionario Histórico de Venezuela was the starting place for every search. Fundación Empresas Polar first edited and published the DHV in 1989. By 1997, its second edition brought together a whooping 4,176 entries written by a who’s who of the Venezuelan intelligentsia: 434 writers in all.

It’s full of delights. You can read a brief biography of Simón Bolívar written by Arturo Uslar Pietri. You can learn the most important aspects of the history of Caracas or Maracaibo from Manuel Beros P. and Germán Cardozo Galué. And if you want to learn more about Rómulo Betancourt, you can read an entry put together by his close collaborator, Ramon J. Velásquez — later president himself.

The 1997 edition received the Gold Letter in The Most Beautiful Books in the World exhibit, Leipzig, Germany in 1999. The cover of the four volumes of the Dictionary is an unmistakable fluorescent yellow and it’s the first thing I look for when I enter the library of an acquaintance or friend. It’s a must-have for academics.

Well, guess what? Now we can all have this magnificent Dictionary in our “Favorites” menu, because Fundación Empresas Polar has just put the 1997 DHV in their new online library: BiblioFEP.

Go ahead and dive right in. The whole history of Venezuela is there.