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Crusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks in the Perilous Age of Sail (Hardback)

Maritime Explorers & Adventurers P&S History 18th Century

By Mike Rendell
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 151
Illustrations: 50
ISBN: 9781526747471
Published: 9th April 2019

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To mark the 300th anniversary of the publication of Robinson Crusoe, this book looks at some of the stories which inspired Daniel Defoe – stories of bravery, courage, determination and good fortune. It looks at Defoe’s life and the monumental success of his novel – sometimes described as being the first in the English language. It also considers some of the reasons why people found themselves cast away – as a result of being wrecked, by being abandoned as a punishment, marooned by pirates – or even out of deliberate choice. Major hurricanes in the 18th Century causing huge damage to shipping and loss of life are also looked at, along with catastrophes when ships were lost, not as a result of battles, but because of human negligence, sheer stupidity and bad luck.

The book looks at the astonishing tales of survival in the face of adversity – down in the Falklands, in the Caribbean and off the coast of Australia. It examines perhaps the most astonishing story of them all – sixty slaves abandoned on a desolate treeless island in the Indian Ocean and left there for fifteen years. Amazingly, some survived against all odds. It looks at how being cast away brings out the best in some – and in others the very worst, with stories of murder, rape and betrayal.

I found his book to be something a little bit different and a thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable read I’m now very happy to recommend.

Warship World, November/December 2019 - reviewed by Alex Manning

As featured by

Ripperologist, October 2019

As featured by

Family Tree, November 2019

This is a beautifully presented book, the cover immediately getting you into the frame of mind for the era that it describes. I had it recommended to me after reading Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”, which is, as the title suggests, the jumping off point for this guide to the real Crusoe (and Defoe), other castaways of the era, and victims of shipwrecks, some famous, some infamous, some little known but worth knowing about.

It’s a very readable guide for the casual reader, as well as for serious historians, with a high level of detail about the various journeys. The author’s style is personal and personable, authoritative without ever being stuffy.

Having read it, I realise that Crusoe was not untypical of this dangerous age, and reading about the hazards of the journeys even when plain sailing (the nutrition, the piracy, the mutinies) made me wonder that anyone arrived at their destination intact at all.

This would be a good gift for anyone interested in Robinson Crusoe and Defoe in particular, or in historical sea voyages in general.

Read the full review here

Debbie Young's Writing Life

As featured on
Rambles.NET

Rambles

Book mentioned on the 'Book Club Show' by Debbie Young, click here to listen

NOTE: set cursor to 53:00

BBC Radio Gloucestershire, 20th August 2019

Robinson Crusoe is fictional, so Crusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks begins as a study in English Literature, discussing the author, Daniel Defoe, and his book and then charting the castaway genre to which it gave rise in print, radio, TV and pantomime. Rendell then goes on to consider some of the real life castaways whose stories may have inspired the novel (not only Alexander Selkirk) and finally summarises other famous castaway epics over the next 200 years, notably the open boat voyage of Captain Bligh across the South Pacific after the mutiny.

As Robinson Crusoe proved, you cannot lose with a castaway story. They are all fascinating.

Historical Novels Review

This entertaining book comes with eight pages of colored pictures, a detailed bibliography, and an index. If you’re at all familiar with Robinson Crusoe, this book will interest you by explaining how the fictional Crusoe was created and some of the real-life incidents that appeared in Defoe’s novel. Anyone with an interest in seafaring or the calamities of shipwrecks is sure to enjoy reading this great new book.

Read the full review here

Pirates and Privateers, Cindy Vallar

This new book takes a 300th Anniversary of publication look at the book, the author, the wider subject. – Very Highly Recommended

Read the full review here

Firetrench

It is not a huge book but is nicely presented with decent quality paper (a pet peeve of mine on some prints) so it makes a pleasant light read and the author shows considerable mastery of his obvious interests. I found it both fascinating and readable any would recommend it to anyone with an interest in some of the more common disasters that could affect seafarers in those far off times.

Read the full review here

Model Ship World
 Mike Rendell

About Mike Rendell

This is Mike's eighth book, all of them about Georgian England. His interest in the period was inspired by a fascinating cache of papers left by his 18th Century ancestors. He has written a general social history, a story about the founder of the modern circus, an introduction to the Georgians and to the Regency period, as well as books on art-related subjects. He spends his time, when not writing, giving lectures about life in Georgian Britain, both in England and abroad, and on cruise liners. He divides his time between homes in Spain and on the edge of Dartmoor.

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