This map plots the settings and references in Robinson Crusoe
To start exploring, click a red pin
Crusoe’s island is never given a formal name, although it is occasionally referred to as ‘The Island of Despair’. In several editions of the novel, a map of the island is provided, marking the locations where the cannibals come ashore to hold their feasts, Crusoe’s ‘country bower’, main fortress and the woods in which his goats are hidden.
From Defoe's description, the island appears to be tropical, with a fairly dense covering of trees. Wild goats, parrots and pigeons abound, along with an occasional turtle in the sea, and Crusoe finds citrus fruit, cacao and grapes. The terrain is very hilly, providing good opportunities for building a defensive abode.
In a painting by Carl Offterdinger (1829-89) the vegetation appears tropical, and this is supported by the assertion in the book that the island lies "near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque". The Orinoco delta lies just south of Trinidad, close to the Equator.
On the other hand, it is likely that Robinson Crusoe was based on the true story of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor marooned for four years and four months on a South Pacific island well below the Tropic of Capricorn.
In 2005, Japanese explorer Daisuke Takahashi claimed to have found the cave Selkirk lived in 300 years ago on the remote Isla Robinson Crusoe, off the coast of Chile.
Isla Robinson Crusoe belongs to an archipelago of three islands situated 674km off the west coast of South America. They consist of Robinson Crusoe (formerly Más a Tierra or Aguas Buenas) and the smaller Alejandro Selkirk and Santa Clara.
Brazil was colonised in the 1500s by the Portuguese, and became a major centre of sugar cane production. African slaves were transported across the Atlantic to work the plantations, and their descendents form a large part of the modern Bahia population.
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.
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 Humber is a large estuary on the northeast coast of England. Many trade ships began their voyages here.
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.
Guinea lies on the north-west coast of Africa. Formerly French Guinea, it was an important source of slaves in Defoe’s time.
This particular vessel is crewed by both Turks and Moors.
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.
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.
The Brasils (modern-day Brazil) were under Portuguese and Spanish control, and were an important centre for sugar production. Many of the plantation owners were Europeans, who either emigrated to the Brasils or managed them from home by way of a duty manager and occasional visits.
At this time, Atlantic trade generally operated along a standard ‘triangle’ route, to make the most of the prevailing winds and serve the demands of the different markets.
Slaves were taken from Africa across to the plantations in the Americas, where sugar and tobacco were picked up and transported to Europe. From there, rum and textiles were transported to Africa, where more slaves were collected.
Somewhere off South America, Crusoe is not on the standard trading routes and so has little chance of being picked up.
Leadenhall Marketis situated in the City of London, and was at that time the main meat market.
It has now been renovated and converted into an open mall of shops, restaurants and bars popular with bankers and other City professionals.
Following Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492, the Spanish colonised large parts of Central and South America, often capturing territory in bloody wars. Their cruelties in building the Spanish Empire was one of Defoe’s major themes.
This refers to the method of execution adopted in continental Europe, where a sword was preferred for decapitation. The axe was used in England until 1747, and was far less clean and quick than the sword. Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, famously asked for a sword to be used for her execution.
The Rio de la Plata is a river and estuary that forms part of the border between Argentina and Uruguay. Both the capitals of Buenos Aires and Montevideo lie on the Plata.
Havana is the capital city of Cuba, in the Caribbean.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. It was always a key trading port, being a convenient starting point for voyages across the Atlantic to the Americas. By Defoe's time, the Portuguese Empire was on the wane, but Lisbon was still an important centre of world power.