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The narrative describes the life of an Englishman, stolen from a well-to-do family as a child and raised by Gypsies who eventually makes his way to sea. One half of the book concerns Singleton's crossing of Africa and the later half concerns his life as a pirate. Defoe's description of piracy focuses for the most part on matters of economics and logistics, making it an intriguing if not particularly gripping read. Singleton's piracy is more like a merchant adventurer, perhaps Defoe's comment on capitalism.