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Daniel Defoe, A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain

“IF this work is not both pleasant and profitable to the reader, the author most freely and openly declares the fault must be in his performance, and it cannot be any deficiency in the subject.”

The above quote  is from  Daniel Defoe’s preface to the first volume of his work A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies”. Defoe offers us a glimpse of England, Wales and Scotland in the eighteenth century – a view of counties we know today as they were then.

The A Vision of Britain through Time website notes that Defoe’s writings were particularly innovative “because Defoe had actually visited the places he described”. Such writings provide a colourful picture of our counties, providing nuance which might otherwise escape traditional histories and gazetteers. Whilst Defoe is best known for his novel Robinson Crusoe, his peregrinations in ‘A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain’ are a refreshing read.

Defoe’s travel writings can be found on the A Vision of Britain through Time website, along with other travel writings. The cataloguing of these writings on the Historic Counties Gateway will make an appreciation of historical impressions of the counties more accessible to someone researching a particular county. Today, Defoe’s work has been catalogued by county, so one can read about his visits through Yorkshire or Devon amongst other works for instance. 2014 will see more of the travel writings on the A Vision of Britain through Time website catalogued alongside other resources.

Daniel Defoe’s ‘A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain’ can be read on the  A Vision of Britain through Time website. The Historic Counties Gateway catalogues descriptions, histories and prose about the counties.


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