Slavery and the slave trade

Robinson as slave trader

Slavery is portrayed as a contemporary normality in Daniel Defoe's novel, Robinson Crusoe (1719). The slave trade had existed for centuries and was part of the international economy in the 17th century as a very profitable business. Before Robinson is stranded on the uninhabited Pacific island, he himself is enslaved. After two years in captivity by Moorish pirates, he is rescued by a Portuguese ship off the coast of West Africa and taken to Brazil.

Robinson Crusoe runs his own plantation with slaves in Brazil as well. In the novel, the adventurer is made a generous offer by a couple of merchants. He is to sail to Guinea and engage in the slave trade there as their representative. He is supposed to select slaves there and pay a reasonable price for them. In return, he should receive a percentage of the slaves as wages. He subsequently undertakes an expedition to secretly acquire slaves from Africa for the plantation owners:

they had all plantations as well as I, and were straitened for nothing so much as servants; that as it was a trade that could not be carried on, because they could not publicly sell ...

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