Page 5. " I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York "
Creative Commons AttributionYork - Credit: Jack Spellingbacon

 York is a city in North Yorkshire, England, halfway between the capital cities of Edinburgh and London.

The city has been an important part of the English transport and trade routes since its founding by the Romans in 71AD. Its most famous landmark is York Minster, the cathedral which stands at the centre of the city.

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Page 5. " my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen "

Bremen is a port on the river Weser in northern Germany. It is the tenth largest city in Germany, and is famous for the fairy story The Musicians of Bremen, a statue of whom stands at the centre of the city.


Page 5. " formerly commanded by the famous Coll. Lockhart "

Sir William Lockhart
Public DomainSir William Lockhart
Colonel Sir William Lockhart (c.1621-1675) was Oliver Cromwell's ambassador to France, where he negotiated a military alliance against Spain. He was later also appointed governor of Dunkirk.

The instructions from Cromwell to Lockhart can be found in The English Historical Review by C. H. Firth (1906).


Page 5. " Being the third son of the family, and not bred to any trade "

During the 17th and 18th centuries, sons of established families were usually groomed for particular careers depending on their order of birth and family circumstances. The first son was heir to the family estate or business, but if the family was not wealthy he would often pursue a military career. The second son invariably went into the church.  The third (like Crusoe) would usually having some respectable trade chosen for him.

Page 7. " to keep him from going into the Low Country wars "
The Surrender of Breda, 1635
Public DomainThe Surrender of Breda, 1635 - Credit: Diego Velázquez

The "Low Country wars" were the Dutch Wars of Independence, also known as the Eighty Years War, which lasted from 1568 to 1648.  The Habsburg Netherlands were under the control of Spain, until seven provinces seceded to form the Dutch Republic.  Two more, Flanders and Brabant, would later become Belgium.  Cromwell's Protestant England supported the rebel provinces against Catholic Spain. 

The war was ended, together with the more wide-ranging and destructive Thirty Years War, by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648).

Page 8. " The ship was no sooner gotten out of the Humber "

The Humber is a large estuary on the northeast coast of England.  Many trade ships began their voyages here.

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Page 10. " we came into Yarmouth Roads "

Yarmouth in Norfolk, was, in Defoe’s time, an important naval port.

Yarmouth Roads is the stretch of sea between Yarmouth and the offshore sandbanks. It was a popular shelter from storms, as the sandbanks protected ships from the worst of the weather.

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Page 14. " like Jonah in the Ship of Tarshish "
Depiction of Jonah and the whale on the south doorway of the Dom St. Peter in Worms, Germany.
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDepiction of Jonah and the whale on the south doorway of the Dom St. Peter in Worms, Germany. - Credit: Rebecca Kennison

This references the Bible story of Jonah and the Whale, in which Jonah attempts to escape from God on a ship to Tarshish, and ends up being thrown into the sea and swallowed by a whale.

But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Jonah 1:3


Listen on Spotify: Oh! Jonah


Page 15. " a voyage to Guinea "

Guinea lies on the north-west coast of Africa.  Formerly French Guinea, it was an important source of slaves in Defoe’s time.

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Page 16. " was surprised in the grey of the morning, by a Turkish rover of Sallee "
HMS Mary Rose battles Sallee Pirates, 1669
Public DomainHMS Mary Rose battles Sallee Pirates, 1669 - Credit: F. Kirkhall

 Sallee pirates operated in and around the Mediterranean from the port of Salé in Morocco. They were largely Moors, with some European.

This particular vessel is crewed by both Turks and Moors.


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Page 23. " the islands of the Canaries, and the Cape de Verd Islands "
Sand Dunes in the Canary Islands
Public DomainSand Dunes in the Canary Islands - Credit: Himarerme
Contemporary Map of the Canary Islands (1699)
Public DomainContemporary Map of the Canary Islands (1699) - Credit: Project Gutenberg

The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago situated off the north-west coast of Africa. Cape Verde is a formerly Portuguese archipelago to the southwest of the Canaries; it is now an independent country. 

Today both archipelagos are popular holiday destinations, but in Defoe’s time they were used as transit points in the Atlantic trade of sugar and slaves.

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Page 25. " my design in this was to make the River Gambia or Sennegall "
Senegal and Gambia
Public DomainSenegal and Gambia - Credit: CIA

Gambia and Senegal are coastal countries in northwest Africa. The Gambia was colonised by the Portuguese, Senegal by the French.  Both were involved in the slave trade.


River Gambia
Creative Commons AttributionRiver Gambia - Credit: Jurgen, Flickr