The African Artisan Meets the English Sailor: Technology and the Savage for Defoe
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Daniel Defoe was preoccupied with industry, skilled work, and technological sophistication as markers of English civilization. But in Captain Singleton (1720), encounters with African workers reveal the porousness of the boundaries between savage and civilized for Defoe; the Africans Singleton enslaves in Mozambique prove to be dextrous and ingenious craftsmen. At the same time, with Singleton's discovery of a naked Englishman in the heart of Africa, Defoe reveals his consciousness of the possibility of cultural degeneracy for Britain: knowledge of the arts and sciences and the practices of industry can be, even within a generation, forgotten and abandoned.
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