January 20, 2013

"The Kingdom of Dahomey became a major power in the Atlantic slave trade..."

"... with slaves supplied through raids of surrounding areas.  Oyo would sometimes put pressure on Dahomey to decrease their slave trade, largely to protect Oyo's own trade, which would slow the trade for a while before it increased again...."

The place that was the Kingdom of Dahomey is now called the Republic of Benin, and it is today's "History of" country. The French took over circa 1870, and the finally let go in 1960:
Between 1960 and 1972, a succession of military coups brought about many changes of government. The last of these brought to power Major Mathieu Kérékou as the head of a regime professing strict Marxist-Leninist principles. By 1975 the Republic of Dahomey changed its name to the People's Republic of Benin. The People's Revolutionary Party of Benin (PRPB) remained in complete power until the beginning of the 1990s. Kérékou, encouraged by France and other democratic powers, convened a national conference that introduced a new democratic constitution and held presidential and legislative elections....

19 comments:

sydney said...

It wasn't established until 1600. Sounds like the founding king may have seen an opportunity to make money in slave trading and started his own kingdom to make it possible.

edutcher said...

Those terrible white people didn't run it?

Mitch H. said...

Hmm, that wiki is surprisingly truncated. Apparently the bulk of the story is hidden here, for the time being. Basically, we're talking about a Slave Coast polity, one of the feeders for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I'm not sure from reading that whether the historic Benin Empire was mostly a Nigerian affair or not, but the modern polities are somewhat... arbitrary.

As always, most of the slaves weren't transported across the Atlantic, but were moved around Africa proper, or shipped northwards into the Arabic sphere. But most doesn't mean "all", and a lot of them went into the Caribbean and Brazil...

Lauderdale Vet said...

Dahomey?

The opportunities for juvenile humor are almost as ripe as Djibouti.

Ann Althouse said...

Mitch, as I read it, that Benin is what is now Nigeria. I think the 2 links in my post are about the place that today is Benin.

F said...

I was assigned to our embassy in Cotonou at the time the country's name was changed to Benin. This move was accompanied by wide distribution of the new green silk flag, obviously imported in great abundance earlier in anticipation of the new Marxist-Leninist (and very pro-China) orientation. I still prefer to call it Dahomey.

Dahomey is the home of voodoo (Called voudoun in the Fon language) and many customs, practices and words from Dahomey are still found in Brazil and the Carribean islands where slaves were transported.

A very interesting country, but a very difficult assignment for anyone working in the American embassy.

Quaestor said...

The African side of the African slave trade is forbidden territory in American education, is it not?

Clyde said...

Benin? Dahomey don't play that.

edutcher said...

Arrrgghhhhh!

autothreads said...

We're not supposed to mention the Africans and Arabs involved in the slave trade. America is never allowed to mitigate one of its alleged founding crimes by pointing out that the enterprise of slavery was founded on African slavers. FWIW, the legal basis of chattel slavery in the American colonies was established by a free black man who owned slaves.

To his credity, Henry Louis Gates has said that more Africans went into slavery going east and north, into Arabia and other African societies, than west to the New World.

bgates said...

Notable in the kingdom were significant artwork, all-female military units known as the Dahomey Amazons, and elaborate religious practices of Vodun

It's almost inconceivable to me that there hasn't been a Quentin Tarantino movie about this place.

n.n said...

autothreads:

I noticed that about Professor Gates. I only have limited knowledge of the man and teacher, but I am aware that he is of a rare breed who exhibits integrity in his work. He does not absolve African and Arab slavers. Not in their origination of the practice or its continuance to this day. I wonder if he offers the same treatment for the millions of Europeans who were captured and held as slaves by the Islamic Caliphate.

Anyway, this does not absolve the European and American slavers, but it does expand on the history of the institution. It suggests that recognizing and respecting individual dignity (i.e. "judge a man by the content of his character") is well advised. That dishonoring this principle will ensure history is repeated.

madAsHell said...

This was a political stunt? Don't tell Hillary, she likes to dodge bullets in her mind.

Carol said...

I would not let one stupid incident put off someone from ever reading Henry Louis Gates. His Colored People is a very interesting read.

And I thought Amistad did a pretty credible job showing the African side of the slave trade.

Mitch H. said...

OK, I see, it's a transitive problem - The Benin Empire gives its name to the Bight of Benin, which is used to give a new name to a colony previously known as Dahomey, further west along the Bight from historic Benin. What the hell, why'd they change the name? It's not as if "Dahomey" was a French coinage, it referred to a historic state conquered by the French.

And yikes. Apparently, if the enslaved victims of historic Dahomey hadn't been shipped out, they may have been sacrificed as part of a ritual for ancestor worship.

More here, following the Wiki links. Isn't this charming:

Dahomey was very reluctant to give up the slave trade in the 19th C and continued to carry on a clandestine trade past the mid-19th C.

That article makes a parallel between European executions for high crimes and the Dahomeyan "annual custom".

LarsPorsena said...

'Blogger F said...

I was assigned to our embassy in Cotonou at the time the country's name was changed to Benin....'

Who did you piss off at State?

Sam L. said...

Slavery was common among American Indians. Romans. Pretty much eveywhere. But, of course, Our Sin is greater than any other.

mariner said...

autothreads,
America is never allowed to mitigate one of its alleged founding crimes by pointing out that the enterprise of slavery was founded on African slavers.

Another thing we're not to mention is that the actual slave traders, who bought slaves in Africa and sold them in America, were largely Yankees.

S. Roosevelt said...

Fans of the historical fiction series, Flashman, know a rough outline of the ongoing slave trade in the 1830-40 era from Flash For Freedom.