Timeless advice: Daniel Defoe and small business management

R.H. Hamilton (Department of Management, The University of Mississippi, Southaven, Mississippi, USA)
Patricia L. Hamilton (Department of English, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 1 December 2005



Daniel Defoe, best known as the author of Robinson Crusoe, was also an early entrepreneur who late in his life published a business text called The Complete English Tradesman. The purpose of this paper is to argue that The Complete English Tradesman should be given renewed consideration as an early predecessor to the great works in management literature.


The paper compares the content found in The Complete English Tradesman with topics and content typically found in modern small business management texts.


The paper finds considerable overlap between Defoe's advice and modern small business management principles. Besides the overall relevant content, the paper also finds unique insights offered by Defoe that could be applied by the modern small business entrepreneur. The paper presents possible reasons why Defoe's work is not widely known today.

Research limitations/implications

Defoe's work may be reflective of the general eighteenth‐century entrepreneurial climate. There may be other related sources of interest, as well as potential parallels between the eighteenth‐century climate and the modern entrepreneurial environment.

Practical implications

A timeless core set of actions may be essential for entrepreneurial success.


This is the first research to compare Defoe's work explicitly with modern small business management theory or practice.



Hamilton, R. and Hamilton, P. (2005), "Timeless advice: Daniel Defoe and small business management", Management Decision, Vol. 43 No. 10, pp. 1304-1316. https://doi.org/10.1108/00251740510634886

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