Happy Birthday, Daniel Defoe

September 13, 1660

“Though I don’t like the crew, I won’t sink the ship. In fact, in time of storm I’ll do my best to save it. You see, we are all in this craft and must sink or swim together.”

Daniel Foe, later known as Daniel Defoe, is most famously known for his novel, Robinson Crusoe. It’s been a very long time since the novel has been “in fashion,” and I suspect that there are many reasons, including the obvious tropes of white privilege and colonialism that are present in the narrative. What a lot of people don’t know, aside from his role as a proponent of the “new” form of literature, the English novel, is that he was a hugely prolific writer, with over 300 titles to his credit. He was an early pioneer of both business and economic journalism, and he wrote many political tracts as well. Defoe was often in trouble with the authorities, and spent a period of time in prison. Many of his contemporaries, both intellectuals and political leaders, found value in his new ideas and they often consulted him. He even served as a spy!

Fun fact: Robinson Crusoe is said to be second only to the Bible in the number of languages into which it has been translated.

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