Claire Harman

Island Records

Crusoe: Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox and the Creation of a Myth


Bodley Head 368pp £20 order from our bookshop

In the summer of 1660, an East Indiaman called the Anne, under Captain Robert Knox, was damaged in a storm in the Indian Ocean and forced to berth for repairs at Trincomalee in Ceylon. It wasn’t the best choice of port. The Dutch had abandoned their fort there and the territory was in the control of the king of Kandy, who promptly sent an armed force to take the ‘outlandish’ Britishers prisoner. 

Among the sixteen men detained were the captain and his nineteen-year-old son, also called Robert, who was destined to stay ‘captivated’ in a series of Ceylonese villages for the next twenty years, during which

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