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Benin - Early History

Benin is home to ancient and brilliant civilizations which were built round kingdoms based on city-states. The three main kingdoms (created by the Fon people) were those of Allada, founded during the 16th century, that of Abomey in 1625, and that of Porto-Novo, formerly known as Adjacé, then Hogbonou. These well structured political entities had functional urban centres. They developed a local trade chiefly based, as early as the 17th century, on the slave trade then on palm tree trade after slavery had been abolished in 1807. This slave-based economy facilitated along the coast (known as the «slave coast»), the establishment of trade posts controlled by the English, Danish, Portuguese and French.

Abomey is located in southern Benin. Between the 17th and 19th centuries the capital of the Kingdom was Abomey. As one of the West Coast of Africa's most powerful dynasties, generations of kings built a palace here, which formed a magnificent architectural complex. Stay current sites include A Jiajia Palace, Tegebisuo and grams of Ben Guerra Tomb, and the palace, including the Racine group, including the 19th century palace.

Benin was the seat of one of the great medieval African kingdoms called Dahomey. Europeans began arriving in the area in the 18th century, as the kingdom of Dahomey was expanding its territory. The Portuguese, the French, and the Dutch established trading posts along the coast (Porto-Novo, Ouidah, Cotonou), and traded weapons for slaves.

In 1650 the English built a fort in Ouidah,and in 1664 the first establishment of missionaries in Juda (Ouidah), the Breton capuchins. In 1704: France was allowed to build a port in Ouidah while in 1752, the Portuguese established in Hogbonou which they named Porto-Novo. In 1863, the first French protectorate was established with the King of Porto-Novo who was in need of assistance to resist the ambitions of the king of Abomey and the attacks of the English established in Lagos. During the same year, Glèlè, King of Abomey, allowed the French to settle in Cotonou.

Originally, the land of the present Benin was occupied by several kingdoms. The most prominent rulers of Abomey and Porto-Novo came from the Adja-Fon migration, coming from Togo Neighbor (Tado). The other peoples come from the present Nigeria, Niger or Burkina-Faso. Thus, the country was once a home of ancient and brilliant civilizations, built around these kingdoms: city-states. These well-structured political entities had functional urban centers. They had developed a local trade, based since the seventeenth century on the slave trade, then on that of the oil palm after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.

This economy favored the establishment along the coast (known as the "slave coast") of trading posts controlled by the English, the Danes, the Portuguese and some Frenchmen. In 1704, France was allowed to build a port in Ouidah, while in 1752 the Portuguese discovered Porto-Novo.

The Dahomeyans (Dahomi), who inhabited the central part of the colony, formed one of eighteen closely-allied clans occupying the country between the Volta and Porto Novo, and from their common tongue known as the Ewe-speaking tribes. In their own tongue Dahomeyans are called Fon or Fawin. They are tall and well-formed, proud, reserved in demeanour, polite in their intercourse with strangers, warlike and keen traders. The Mina, who occupied the district of the Popos, were noted for their skill as surf-men, which gained for them the title of the Krumen of Dahomey.

Porto Novo was inhabited by a tribe called Nago, which has an admixture of Yoruba blood and speaks a Yoruba dialect. The Nago were a peaceful tribe and even keener traders than the Dahomi. In Whydah and other coast towns are many mulattos, speaking Portuguese and bearing high-sounding Portuguese names. In the north the inhabitants — Mahi, Bariba, Gurmai — were scarcely so civilized as the coast tribes. Settled among them were communities of Fula and Hausas. There were many converts to Islam in the northern districts, but the Mahi and Dahomeyans proper were nearly all fetish worshippers.

Kotonu was originally a small village which served as the seaport of Porto Novo and was burnt to the ground in 1800. It had consequently the advantage of being a town laid out by Europeans on a definite plan. Situated on the beach between the sea and the lagoon of Porto Novo, the soil consists of heavy sand. Good hard roads have been made. Owing to an almost continuous, cool, westerly sea-breeze, Kotonu was, in comparison with the other coast towns, decidedly healthy for white men.





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Page last modified: 20-04-2017 18:43:13 ZULU