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Robinson Crusoe

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Autor:   •  May 21, 2011  •  1,278 Words (6 Pages)  •  475 Views

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Robinson Crusoe's experiences with trading both commodities and slaves reflect the contemporary British economics model that existed in the eighteenth century Europe. To illustrate this situation I would like talk about the Atlantic system which was significant for exchanging goods, the English colonies in South America, and the relationship of society to the slaves in context of Robinson Crusoe written by Daniel Defoe.

The Atlantic system also called the "triangular" trade was made by trans-Atlantic routes. It emerged as a result of high demand of British society for commodities that were not available in their region, and were considered luxuries. These desired goods were: sugar, tea, coffee, tobacco, and chocolate. They could not be grown in Europe, so merchants started to trade British produced goods for these which were preferred in England. The ships sailed from Europe to the West coast of Africa, where rum, hardware, weapons, and clothes were exchanged for slaves. When cargo was sold and slaves tightly packed on board, the ship would sail to the Americas. There the slaves were traded for molasses or sugar and then from the seacoasts of the Americas, ships returned to England. Trading was a popular lifestyle because it gave merchants an opportunity to become wealthy as well as the possibility of traveling to far away places.

Robinson Crusoe, a young man from England, had dreams to see the world. He wanted to travel, to experience adventures, and to live a plentiful life. Despite his conflict with his father, Robinson, driven by curiosity and willingness to become a wealthy man, decided to go on board of a ship. Thanks to good circumstances he sailed to Guinea, and traded goods such as toys and trifles. Crusoe was a fast learner and he found that trading with local people was easy, and he was able to buy slaves and gold for things like knives or scissors. After this voyage, he was not quite satisfied with a few ounces of gold that he earned. It was not enough for him, still motivated by gaining a profit; Robinson decided to become one of the traders.

Defoe also showed in his book the dismissive attitude of the British people towards slaves. Slaves were treated as objects which could be sold or exchanged any time, and who were supposed to be obedient to their masters. Slaves also had an impact on one's prosperity because they were an essential source of cheap labor; therefore owning slaves could bring you a lot of profit, and were valuable for trading. Most of the slaves came from Africa and through "triangular" trade they landed either in one of the Americas or in the Caribbean islands. In the eighteenth century, the slave trade flourished and almost six million people were enslaved. They were transported harshly and they worked in inhumane conditions that caused high mortality among them.

To represent the people's approach to slaves, Defoe uses Robinson's attitude towards Xury. Robinson, after being in captivity for two years, not only escaped and regained his freedom, but also possessed a slave, Xury. Xury was a young boy that Robinson kept as a servant after his escape. Robinson, who was treated as an equal person with Xury during captivity, right after the escape he proved his authority to the young boy. What is more, Xury's life depended on his obedience to Robinson. Crusoe knew that Xury will provide a good source of labor, protection, as well as he will be a valuable "subject" for trading. Crusoe was aware about his trumps and as soon as the chance appeared at the horizon he did not hesitate to sell his slave for money that gave him a good start in Brazil. He did not have any regrets when he traded his slave because his vision of profit was stronger then human feelings.

Traded commodities from European colonies had a great impact on the British economy. In the eighteenth century Europe, the population increased significantly in comparison to the centuries before. The more people settled the bigger the demand was for goods, especially for those commodities which were luxuries, for example: tea, coffee, tobacco, chocolate, sugar, newspapers, and books. These products were not produced locally; they came from European colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, which made them expensive and highly desired. Trading these goods was a lucrative transaction. Many Europeans, motivated by profit, settled on a new land and to maximize their usage from natural resources, they established

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