Novelist James Joyce eloquently noted that the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe: "He is the true prototype of the British colonist. … The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity."
In a sense Crusoe attempts to replicate his own society on the island. This is achieved through the application of European technology, agriculture, and even a rudimentary political hierarchy. Several times in the novel Crusoe refers to himself as the 'king' of the island, whilst the captain describes him as the 'governor' to the mutineers. At the very end of the novel the island is explicitly referred to as a 'colony.' The idealised master-servant relationship Defoe depicts between Crusoe and Friday can also be seen in terms of cultural imperialism. Crusoe represents the 'enlightened' European whilst Friday is the 'savage' who can only be redeemed from his supposedly barbarous way of life through the assimilation into Crusoe's culture. Nevertheless, within the novel Defoe also takes the opportunity to criticise the historic Spanish conquest of South America.
When confronted with the cannibals, Crusoe wrestles with the problem of cultural relativism. Despite his disgust, he feels unjustified in holding the natives morally responsible for a practice so deeply ingrained in their culture. Nevertheless he retains his belief in an absolute standard of morality; he condemns cannibalism as a 'national crime' and forbids Friday from practicing it. Modern readers may also note that despite Crusoe's apparently superior morality, in common with the culture of his day, he accepts slavery as a basic feature of colonial life.
Note to Russell Bates: The full title of the book also specifies the location of Crusoe's island. Duh.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.