Defoe, Slavery, and Barbary
Early in The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719), Defoe’s hero is captured by a “Rover of Sallee,” enslaved there for two years, and escapes aboard a small boat. In addition to this brief fictional episode, Defoe deplores and denounces Barbary piracy at length in various other books. Defoe’s ultimate criterion for opposing Barbary piracy, and elsewhere for defending the enslavement of Africans, is economic rather than moral, racial, or religious. Because transporting and employing slaves from sub-Saharan Africa is crucial to England’s trade, he forthrightly defends it. Because piracy based in North Africa hurts trade, he vehemently attacks it.