Product images of Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
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Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
This portrait is of the famous author Daniel Defoe. Slavery played a part in more than one aspect of Defoe's life. In his most famous work, 'The Life and strange and surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe', published in 1719, Defoe describes Robinson Crusoe being stranded on a seemingly uninhabited island. Soon after his arrival, however, Crusoe meets and 'befriends' an inhabitant of the island whom he calls 'Friday' (after the day they met). Crusoe then makes Friday his servant. Before being stranded Crusoe had been a slave trader, and the relationship between Crusoe and Friday is unequal from the start. Just as he imposed a new name on Friday, Crusoe teaches Friday to call him 'Master'. Although Defoe is best known as an author, he also tried to make money as a stockholder in the South Sea Company, which held the right to supply enslaved Africans to the Spanish colonies in the Americas. This kind of investment was perfectly normal and accepted in Britain until the late 18th century, and it shows how slavery was simply a 'matter of fact' for Europeans of this period.
- Image reference: BHC2648
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London