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A Look Inside Modern Day Benin

1791 words - 8 pages

Modern day Benin is located along the Western coast of Africa. Benin is only 112,622 square kilometers, making it one of Africa’s smallest countries. Benin today however, differs significantly from the kingdom that it was during the pre-colonial and colonial periods. The people, culture, and government have all changed due to colonization. (The World Fact Book, 2014)
The great kingdom of Dahomey once resided where Benin is today. Dahomey’s origins can be traced back to the 1600s, during which two groups of people named the Aja and the Fon occupied Dahomey, (The World Fact Book, 2014). The Fon people practiced the religion of Voodoo and believed that god was Vodo. During their occupation, the Fon and Aja people established two major cities, Abomey and Ouidah. Ouidah soon became a major trading port, especially for slaves, (The Africa Guide, n.d.).
Although the French eventually became the ones to colonize Dahomey, known as of 1975 as Benin, the Portuguese were actually the first Europeans to reach Dahomey and establish a trading fort at Port-Novo. Many other European countries such as Holland, Spain, and France followed and established trading ports along the coast as well, (“Benin”, 2008). Throughout the mid-1600s the British began to arrive at Ouidah and construct a trading fort. As a result of the trading forts being constructed, trade along the coast of Dahomey had flourished, the main export being slaves, (Republic of Benin, n.d.). Consequently, the western African coast became known as the “slave coast” until slavery was abolished in the early 1800s, (Bondarenko, n.d.). The kings of Dahomey grew rich from this trade and obtained guns from European traders that were used to conquer other Western African kingdoms. This expansion of Dahomey was attractive to European interests and motivated colonization, (“Benin”, 2008).
As a result of this the British began to monopolize trade around the time of the 1800s, especially after slave trade was abolished. The main exports now became rubber, palm oil, and timber. To prevent the destruction of timber and other sources of trading goods, the British established forest reserves, (Shokpeka, & Nwaokocha, 2009). Similarly to Britain, the French were attracted by such a major trading port, and around the time of the mid to late 19th century the French began their attempt to colonize Dahomey. Unfortunately, with the British in control of Nigeria and a majority of the surrounding area that included Dahomey, the French had to put up a fight to gain some power. The British finally agreed to divide up the land that they possessed in what was called the partition, and the French fought desperately for the area of Port-Novo and Dahomey. Finally, in the year of 1894 the French were able to colonize Dahomey, with some resistance from the kingdom’s people. Benin’s modern boundaries are a result of this partition, (“Benin”, 2008).
Therefore, Dahomey was soon transformed into a republic with heavy taxes, forced labor,...

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