Robinson Crusoe is the hero of Daniel Defoe’s famous 1719 novel that tells the story of a man cast away on an island in the Caribbean for 26 years.

Defoe based Crusoe’s island on descriptions of the island of Tobago, a small island off Trinidad. In the novel, Crusoe not only survives but prospers on the island, building an extensive farm and eventually employing European and native American workers. Crusoe finally returns to Britain as a man wealthy in body and soul.

Who inspired the character of Crusoe?

Defoe’s novel was inspired by the story of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish seaman from Fife who had been marooned on the Pacific island of Juan Fernandez for four years and four months. Born in 1676, Selkirk was appointed to be sailing master of the Cinque Ports in 1703 for its voyage to plunder the Spanish settlements and shipping on the South American Pacific coast.

After an argument with his captain, Selkirk was put ashore on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez with a musket, powder, shot, tools, clothing, a hatchet and a bible. When he was finally rescued in 1709, after over four years marooned alone on the island, he was said to have virtually lost the power of speech. Selkirk later learnt that the ship, Cinque Ports, had been lost with all hands.