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Daniel Defoe

History of the Plague in London

A Journal of the Plague Year is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in March 1722. This novel is an account of one man's experiences of the year 1665, in which the Great Plague or the bubonic plague struck the city of London. The book is told somewhat chronologically, though without sections or chapter headings.

Born in London, the son a James Foe, a tallow-chandler, he changed his name to the more genteel Defoe. His childhood years saw the Great Plague 1665 and the Great Fire 1666. These traumatizing events may have helped shape his fascination with catastrophes and survival in his later writing. Defoe attended a respected school in Dorking, where he was an excellent student, but as a Presbyterian, he was forbidden to attend Oxford or Cambridge. Instead, he entered a dissenting institution called Morton's Academy for Dissenters and for some time entertained the idea of becoming a Presbyterian minister. Though he abandoned this plan, his Protestant values endured throughout his life despite discrimination and persecution, and these values are powerfully expressed in Robinson Crusoe. In 1683, Defoe became a traveling hosiery salesman. Visiting Holland, France, and Spain on business, Defoe developed a taste for travel that lasted throughout his life. His fiction reflects his interest in travel as well, as his characters Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe both change their lives by voyaging far from their native England.
354 printed pages
Original publication
2019

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