Daniel Defoe

c.1660 - 1731

Author, journalist and social thinker. Born in London (England), the son of a candle merchant named Foe. He added the "De" to his name about 1700. Although educated for the ministry, Defoe instead became a hosiery merchant (1685), which enabled him to travel widely in Europe.

An opponent of King James VII, in 1685 Defoe took an active part in the unsuccessful rebellion against the Roman Catholic, led by the Duke of Monmouth. In 1692, his business went into bankruptcy, but subsequently he became the owner of a tile and brick factory. In 1695, he wrote An Essay upon Projects, an analysis of social issues including the education of women. Notable among his writings of the time was the satirical poem The True-born Englishman (1701), an attack on beliefs in racial or national superiority, which supported the new king, William of Orange, who had come from the Netherlands.

Defoe went on to anonymously publish The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702), which satirised religious intolerance. In 1703, when it was discovered that this work was Defoe's, he was arrested and jailed. However, his release was quickly secured, probably on the condition that he agree to become a secret agent and public propagandist for the government.

Defoe turned to journalism, producing a rather conservative news journal entitled The Review from 1704 to 1713. Defoe was strongly in favour of the Union between Scotland and England. In his role as a secret agent may have worked actively to bring this about (1707). In 1709 he wrote a History of the Union. Defoe's first and most famous novel, The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719), was based on the adventures of shipwrecked sailor Alexander Selkirk (1676 - 1721).

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