Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731), born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer, and spy. He is most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe, which is second only to the Bible in its number of translations. Defoe is noted for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Aphra Behn and Samuel Richardson, and is among the founders of the English novel. He was a prolific and versatile writer, producing more than three hundred works – books, pamphlets, and journals – on diverse topics, including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology, and the supernatural. He was also a pioneer of business journalism.
Daniel Foe (his original name) was probably born in Fore Street in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate, London. Defoe later added the aristocratic-sounding "De" to his name, and on occasion claimed descent from the family of De Beau Faux. His birthdate and birthplace are uncertain, and sources offer dates from 1659 to 1662, with 1660 considered the most likely. His father James Foe was a prosperous tallow chandler and a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. In Defoe's early life, he experienced some of the most unusual occurrences in English history: in 1665, 70,000 were killed by the Great Plague of London, and next year, the Great Fire of London left standing only Defoe's and two other houses in his neighbourhood. In 1667, when he was probably about seven, a Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway via the River Thames and attacked the town of Chatham in the raid on the Medway. His mother Annie had died by the time he was about ten.
Defoe was educated at the Rev. James Fisher's boarding school in Pixham Lane in Dorking, Surrey. His parents were Presbyterian dissenters, and around the age of 14 he attended a dissenting academy at Newington Green in London run by Charles Morton, and he is believed to have attended the Newington Green Unitarian Church. During this period, the English government persecuted those who chose to worship outside the Church of England.