KNOX, Robert

KNOX, Robert. London 8.2.1641 — Wimbledon, London 17.6.1720. British (Scottish) Traveller. In South Asia in 1657-94 (1659-79 prisoner in Ceylon). Son of Robert Knox, a Puritan and commander in E.I.C.’s service. Grew up in Wimbledon, Surrey. After mother’s death sailed with his father in January 1657 to Fort George. On return voyage in November 1659 they were carried by storm to Ceylon, where his father died in 1660, while the son escaped only after 19 years’ captivity to a Dutch base on coast in October 1679 and returned via Batavia to England. He then sailed in E.I.C.’s service in Asian waters until at least 1694. His letters “show him to have been a man of morose temper, rough manners, and a woman-hater” and a strict Puritan, but nevertheless his book is the best early European account of Sri Lanka. Unmarried.

Publications: Wrote a famous account: A Historical relation of the island of Ceylon in the East Indies. 189 p. L. 1681, facsimile ed. 1983, tr. into Dutch 1692, French 1693, and German 1747.

Sources: *J.R. Blake, “A brief notice of Robert Knox and his companions in captivity in Kandy for the space of twenty years, discovered among the Dutch Records preserved in the Colonial Secretary’s Office, Colombo, and translated into English”, JRAS-CB4:14, 1867-70, 143-150; G.G[oodwin], D.N.B. 31, 1892, 330f.; J. Paterson, Literature of Travel and Explor. 2, 2003, 681f.; Wikipedia with portrait.

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