DANIEL DEFOE (1660-1731) Daniel Defoe was born in London as the son of a butcher. In his youth, he travelled all over Europe as a merchant, and he joined the army in 1688. Before he started writing his first novel at the age of nearly sixty, he had also worked as an economist, a journalist and a spy. Robinson Crusoe is based on a true story which Defoe had heard about. In 1704, a Scotsman, Alexander Selkirk, had an argument with the captain of a ship and asked to be put ashore on an uninhabited island. He lived there alone until he was picked up by another English ship five years later. At the time, the story made a great impression in England, and there was a general feeling of optimism about what Man was able to do. In his novel about Robinson Crusoe, Defoe shows his great ability to write realistic fiction.