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Colonialism and After

The novel originated in Europe at a time when it was colonising the rest of the world.  Novels during this time made the readers feel they were part of a superior community of fellow colonialists.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719)

The hero of this novel is an adventurer and slave trader.

He is ship wrecked on an island.

Robinson Crusoe, the hero, treats coloured people not as human beings equal to him, but as inferior creatures.

He rescues a ‘native’ and makes him his slave.

He arrogantly names the slave Friday, without consulting him.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe

The colonialists did not find Crusoe’s behaviour unacceptable or odd, for most writers of the time saw colonialism as natural. Colonised people were seen as primitive and barbaric, less than human; and colonial rule was considered necessary to civilise them, to make them fully human. Only in the 20th century writers like Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) wrote novels that showed the darker side of colonial occupation.

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