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Defoe: The Facts and the Fictions

Mark Lawson explores the influence of Daniel Defoe. In the company of writers, critics and cartoonists, he tells the story of the man who never stopped telling stories.

Mark Lawson presents a documentary exploring the far-reaching influence of Daniel Defoe. Bookshops have separate sections for Fiction, Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Travel Writing, Journalism, Economics and Politics. But all of these different forms of writing were more or less created by one author - Daniel Defoe. Defoe also pioneered, three hundred years ago, what has become one of the most fashionable literary tactics of the 21st century: "faction", which blurs history and story.

Although now considered foundations of the realistic English novel, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1721) were initially published with only the names of their narrators on the cover, and were sold and bought as memoirs. Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), an account of the bubonic epidemic, is still often read as reportage, but was "faction" based on extensive research. His book, A Tour Through the Whole Isles of Great Britain (1724), can be seen as one of the beginnings of travel writing and The Complete English Tradesman (1726) is one of the first business or economic texts. As the author of more than 500 pamphlets, Defoe is also a forefather of British journalism.

In the company of writers, biographers, critics, and cartoonists, Mark Lawson tells the story of the man who never stopped telling stories.

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43 minutes

Mark Lawson at the grave of Daniel Defoe

Mark Lawson at the grave of Daniel Defoe
Presenter Mark Lawson visits the grave of Daniel Defoe, at Bunhill Fields Cemetery in Islington, London.

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