Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The most commonly available version of the early 18th Century classic  ‘The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe’ is the ‘children’s’ adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s famous novel.
Every child knows, or perhaps one should say used to know, before the days of Harry Potter, of  Crusoe’s famous stranding on a desert island where he was eventually joined by the equally famous ‘Man Friday’, the native he rescued from cannibals.

In fact the original novel, written in 1719, is a lengthy adventure story, commencing with Crusoe’s leaving home in Yorkshire and running away to sea from the port of Hull.
His first great misadventure was certainly not his shipwreck on the desert island, but rather a more prosaic shipwreck in the North Sea whilst en route to nowhere more romantic than London!
Apparently accident prone, his second great adventure sees his next berth captured by Tunisian Pirates, famous perils of the trading routes of the early 18th Century.

His arrival in Brazil, successfully developing an estate, and then becoming shipwrecked on the desert island in the Caribbean, en route for a slaving voyage to Africa, are all parts of his adventures.
But to those interested in Bangladesh, literally translated as ‘the land of Bengal’ of which ancient area the modern nation comprises the major part, it is Crusoe’s last adventure that offers the greatest appeal.
Rescued from his island, returned to Britain and becoming a wealthy adventurer, he decides to set out with his nephew for a trading expedition to the Spice Islands.
These islands, it is worth remembering, were the source of enormous potential riches and, in Defoe’s days, were romantic and enigmatic, but also a kind of contemporary version of Microsoft.
Crusoe, however, finds himself instead marooned in Bengal by his nephew and crew for objecting to the massacre of Madagascan natives on the voyage east.
His last great adventure then is a trading venture out of Bengal, trading in gems and opium.

‘On our return to Bengal I was very satisfied with my adventure... but it is little matter for wonder when we consider the innumerable ports and places where they have free commerce’ writes Defoe/Crusoe.

It is well known, of course, that the lands of Bengal/Bangladesh were at that time the main source of high quality Opium, which was traded by the merchants of the region, especially the East India Company, for tea from China that was in such demand in Europe.
Gemstones, in Crusoe’s case evidently diamonds, deriving from the Ganges Basin of North India, were just one of the valuable commodities traded around the countries of the region including Burma, Thailand, Java and Sumatra, along the routes out of the region into Central Asia to the north, and Europe to the west, from the flourishing centre of international trade that was the estuary of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers.

No comments:

Post a Comment