Kingdom of Benin Timeline

Kingdom of Benin Timeline


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  • c. 1100 - 1897

    The Kingdom of Benin rules in southern West Africa.

  • 1440 - 1473

    Reign of Ewuare the Great, the greatest ruler of the Kingdom of Benin.

  • c. 1471

    Portuguese ships arrive off the coast of southern West Africa.

  • 1487

    Portuguese traders establish a permanent presence at Ughoton, the major port of the Kingdom of Benin.

  • 1514

    The king of Benin sends an unsuccessful diplomatic mission to Portugal to secure firearms.

  • 1516

    The king or oba of the Kingdom of Benin prohibits the sale of male slaves to Portuguese traders.

  • 1897

    A British force conquers the Kingdom of Benin in West Africa.


Objectives

  • Pupils should continue to develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history, establishing clear narratives within and across the periods they study.
  • Construct informed responses that involve thoughtful selection and organisation of relevant historical information.
  • Pupils should use maps, atlases, globes and digital/computer mapping to locate countries and describe features studied.

Planning and Activities

Experience a traditional Benin food, listen to some of their music and start to research modern and ancient Benin using a series of research challenges. Build the base of a tabletop timeline of the Benin civilisation using a series of research challenges to gather information. Work in groups to find out the main facts and dates about the Benin Kingdom and place on the timeline.


Kingdom of Benin

Benin, a pre-colonial kingdom in what is now southwestern Nigeria, is believed to have been established before the eleventh century. It was founded by Edo-speaking peoples, but became more ethnically diverse when invaders from the grasslands of the Sudan settled and intermarried with local women. Based on oral tradition, Benin is said to have begun as family clusters of hunters, gatherers, and agriculturalists who eventually created villages. By 1300, Benin was heavily involved in trade and the arts, using such mediums as copper, bronze, and brass. The Benin bronzes eventually became some of the most famous art pieces produced in Africa.

Benin’s early society started as hierarchical, with an Ogiso (King of the Sky) as the head assisted by seven powerful nobles (uzama). These kings established the city on Ubini, later Benin City, in 1180 A.D. Around 1300 the people of Benin rebelled against the Ogiso and invested power in a new ruler, Oranmiyan, who took over only long enough to have a child, Eweka I. Oranmiyan created a new dynasty, calling himself the first Oba (king) of Benin. The Obas would rule Benin for the next six centuries. Eweka I, the second Oba, however, reorganized the army and took power from the uzama, giving it instead to his supporters. Thus, the new nobility answered only to him.

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries marked the high-point of Benin’s economic and political power. The kings initiated military campaigns that extended the kingdom on all sides. They also began to trade with Europeans, especially the Portuguese who reached Benin City in 1485. Benin exchanged palm oil, ivory, cloth, pepper, and slaves for metals, salt, cloth, guns, and powder. Although Benin’s earlier power rested with its domination of interior trade routes, commerce with the Europeans required expansion to the ocean since Benin City, the capital, was 50 miles inland. This problem, however, was solved with the creation of a fort and port on the coast. Benin was desperate to keep trade with the Portuguese who supplied the guns that gave it military superiority over its neighbors especially after its attempt to manufacture guns locally failed. Recognizing his leverage, King Manuel I of Portugal threatened to end the gun trade unless Benin’s rulers adopted Christianity. The attempt failed but the Portuguese continued to supply guns because the slave trade proved too lucrative for either nation to end.

Benin, however, began a slow decline in the 1700s as neighboring nations gained access to Portuguese or other European firearms. The kingdom was also weakened by internal disputes over royal succession which often led to civil wars. By the 1890s, Benin was unable to resist British conquest. In 1897 it was incorporated into Great Britain’s Niger Coast Protectorate after a British force conquered and burned Benin City and in the process destroyed much of Benin’s treasured art while sending remaining pieces to London. The British allowed the Oba of Benin to continue as a ceremonial ruler but all effective power from that point was in the hands of British colonial administrators. The current Oba of Benin serves as a ceremonial ruler in Nigeria.


The history of the kingdom of Benin from African historical sources & British sources

This post is going to combine a number of different sources. We are going to take a look at the history of Benin.

All pictures in this post are from Google images.

Below is a list of towns and tribes in the picture box

To start we have a summary from http://www.nigeriamuse.com

I have found a teachers guide to the kingdom of benin. I thought twice about adding the information from The British Museum however Europe and England do seem to hold relevant information that can be used along with the other sources to get an understanding of Benin.Compiled by Bolaji Aluko

The Benin Empire and Slave Trade – A History Lesson in 5 Minutes

Source of map:

The military system of Benin Kingdom 1440-1897 (O.B. Osadolor PhD Thesis, Hamburg, July 2001

Benin Empire, A House Divided: 1100 – 1299

The first kingdom of Benin is believed to have developed in the 12th or 13th century. It was located in present-day southern Nigeria, east of the Yoruba land and west of the Niger River. The inhabitants of Benin spoke a group of closely related languages known as Edo. In fact, the Benin Empire may also be referred to as the Edo Empire. During this early time, historians believe that the forested area around Benin City housed as many as several dozen small, quarrelsome chiefdoms.

Benin Unites: 1300 – 1350

Around 1300 [SOME PUT IT 100 YEARS EARLIER], the chiefdoms around Benin City united. Benin tradition tells us that when the chiefs agreed to unite, they invited Oranyan (also known as Oranmiyan) from nearby Ife to come and be their leader. Oranyan married a Benin woman, and their son, Eweka, is considered the first king, or oba, of Benin. However, some historians argue that the story of Oranyan being “invited” to rule Benin and marrying the daughter of a Benin chief was invented to cover up the fact that Benin was at that time occupied by invaders. It was during this time period (and possibly as a result of Oranyan coming to Benin) that Benin people supposedly learned from Ife people how to cast brass and bronze.

Oba Ewuare Makes Reforms: 1400 – 1486

During the 15th century, Oba Ewuare of Benin made many important reforms. One of his primary aims was to lessen the influence of the uzama, a body of hereditary chiefs who participated in the selection of the oba. He did this in part by implementing primogeniture, the rule that a father should be succeeded by his son. He also created new types of chiefs – “palace chiefs” and “town chiefs” – to compete with the uzama. The palace chiefs and town chiefs were appointed by the oba and were responsible for collecting the tribute that the villages and districts offered to the court twice each year. Through these reforms, Ewuare established a system of checks and balances in which “palace” and “town” chiefs competed with the uzama for influence. Also, free male commoners were able to improve their station in society by competing for the chiefly titles awarded by the oba. Benin tradition credits Ewuare with constructing a huge system of walls and moats around the capital, Benin city. Ewuare also greatly increased the domain of the Benin Empire. He and his son, Ozolua, expanded the territory under Benin rule from the Niger River in the east to the eastern portions of Yoruba land in the west.

Enter the Europeans (and Esigie): 1486 – 1550

In 1486, Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to reach the area of West Africa in which the Benin Empire was located. Unlike the Chinese at that time, the obas of Benin saw the benefits of trading with Europeans. Ozolua’s son, Esigie, who reigned from around 1504 until 1550, forged close contacts with the Portuguese. Some accounts say that he even learned to speak and read Portuguese. Four of Benin’s primary exports were pepper, ivory, palm oil, and cloth. The obas controlled trade in pepper and ivory through a government monopoly.

Arts also flourished during Esigie’s time. Esigie’s grandfather, Ewuare, had divided Benin City into two wards – one for the palace and one for artists and craftsworkers. Trade with Europe during Esigie’s reign brought copper and brass into Benin, allowing Benin’s artists to refine techniques of bronze and brass casting that had been known to them for centuries. Artists produced an amazing array of brass plaques and sculptures and bronze bas-reliefs that adorned the walls of the oba’s palace.

The Slave Trade: 1486 – 1807

Throughout much of Benin’s history, the slave trade played a role – sometimes large, sometimes smaller – in Benin’s economy. There are a couple of possible conflicts among sources regarding the slave trade. According to

“Benin prevented the depletion of its own population by prohibiting the export of male slaves during the 16th and 17th centuries, although it did import slaves purchased by Europeans elsewhere in West Africa, and resold some of them to the region which is now Ghana.” On the other hand,

states that “The Portuguese first visited Benin in the late 15th century, and, for a time, Benin traded…slaves with Portuguese and Dutch traders.” The latter source makes no mention of restrictions regarding the trading of male slaves. Also,

says that “Benin grew increasingly rich during the 16th and 17th centuries on the slave trade with Europe slaves from enemy states of the interior were sold, and carried to the Americas in Dutch and Portuguese ships.”

There is also a possible conflict between the same three sources regarding Benin’s policy on the slave trade during the 18th century. The view of

is that “Historians of Benin know relatively little about the kingdom’s history during the 18th century, although they recognize that slaves supplanted cloth as Benin’s major export after it abolished the prohibition on slave exports.” However,

asserts that “Benin stopped trading slaves with Europeans in the 18th century and focused attention on dependent regions around it.” These statements, while seemingly contradictory, are not mutually exclusive. It is possible that Benin did lift the ban on exporting male slaves during the 18th century, but that they decided to export slaves to nearby regions rather than Europe. However, this theory is contradicted by

which says that “It [the Slave Coast] became one of the most important export centers for the Atlantic slave trade from the early 16th century to the 19th century.”

Benin Declines: 1807 – 1897

In 1486, Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to reach the area of West Africa in which the Benin Empire was located. Unlike the Chinese at that time, the obas of Benin saw the benefits of trading with Europeans. Ozolua’s son, Esigie, who reigned from around 1504 until 1550, forged close contacts with the Portuguese. Some accounts say that he even learned to speak and read Portuguese. Four of Benin’s primary exports were pepper, ivory, palm oil, and cloth. The obas controlled trade in pepper and ivory through a government monopoly.

Arts also flourished during Esigie’s time. Esigie’s grandfather, Ewuare, had divided Benin City into two wards – one for the palace and one for artists and craftsworkers. Trade with Europe during Esigie’s reign brought copper and brass into Benin, allowing Benin’s artists to refine techniques of bronze and brass casting that had been known to them for centuries. Artists produced an amazing array of brass plaques and sculptures and bronze bas-reliefs that adorned the walls of the oba’s palace.

Tradition asserts that the Edo people became dissatisfied with the rule of a dynasty of semimythical kings, the ogisos, and in the 13th century they invited Prince Oranmiyan of Ife to rule them. His son Eweka is regarded as the first oba, or king, of Benin, though authority would remain for many years with a hereditary order of local chiefs. Late in the 13th century, royal power began to assert itself under the oba Ewedo and was firmly established under the most famous oba, Ewuare the Great (reigned c. 1440–80), who was described as a great warrior and magician. He established a hereditary succession to the throne and vastly expanded the territory of the Benin kingdom, which by the mid-16th century extended from the Niger River delta in the east to what is now Lagos in the west. (Lagos was in fact founded by a Benin army and continued to pay tribute to the oba of Benin until the end of the 19th century.) Ewuare also rebuilt the capital (present-day Benin City), endowing it with great walls and moats. The oba became the supreme political, judicial, economic, and spiritual leader of his people, and he and his ancestors eventually became the object of state cults that utilized human sacrifice in their religious observances.

Ewuare was succeeded by a line of strong obas, chief of whom were Ozolua the Conqueror (c. 1481–c. 1504 the son of Ewuare) and Esigie (early to mid-16th century the son of Ozolua), who enjoyed good relations with the Portuguese and sent ambassadors to their king. Under these obas Benin became a highly organized state. Its numerous craftsmen were organized into guilds, and the kingdom became famous for its ivory and wood carvers. Its brass smiths and bronze casters excelled at making naturalistic heads, bas-reliefs, and other sculptures. From the 15th through the 18th century Benin carried on an active trade in ivory, palm oil, and pepper with Portuguese and Dutch traders, for whom it served as a link with tribes in the interior of western Africa. It also profited greatly from the slave trade. But during the 18th and early 19th centuries the kingdom was weakened by violent succession struggles between members of the royal dynasty, some of which erupted into civil wars. The weaker obas sequestered themselves in their palaces and took refuge in the rituals of divine kingship while indiscriminately granting aristocratic titles to an expanding class of nonproductive nobles. The kingdom’s prosperity declined with the suppression of the slave trade, and, as its territorial extent shrank, Benin’s leaders increasingly relied on supernatural rituals and large-scale human sacrifices to protect the state from further territorial encroachment. The practice of human sacrifice was stamped out only after the burning of Benin City in 1897 by the British, after which the depopulated and debilitated kingdom was incorporated into British Nigeria. The descendants of Benin’s ruling dynasty still occupy the throne in Benin City (although the present-day oba has only an advisory role in government).

The Ogiso Dynasty (Before the Obas of Benin) By: Naiwu Osahon

THE BRITISH MUSEUM PDF KINGDOM OF BENIN, c. 1440–1700: TEACHERS’ NOTES

The kingdom of Benin was well known to European traders and merchants during the 16th and

17th centuries, when it became wealthy partly due to trading in slaves. The relationship between Benin and the European traders on the changed during the 18th and 19th centuries, as European governments increased their control of areas of the coast. In 1897, a British punitive expedition invaded Benin City to avenge the murder of a British consul. They reported being met by the sight of dozens of human sacrifices, and blood strewn over the palace of the ruler, the Oba. The booty from the attack on Benin included carved ivory tusks, coral jewellery and hundreds of bronze statues and plaques. Many of these objects were auctioned off to cover the costs of the expedition. The plaques were most sought after and were bought by museums across Europe and America – you can see the plaques at the British Museum, in Chicago, Vienna, Paris and a large collection can be viewed in Berlin.

The arrival and the reception of the bronze plaques caused a sensation in Europe. Scholars struggled to understand how African craftsmen could have made such works of art, putting forward some wild theories to explain them. Quickly, however, research showed that the Benin bronzes were entirely West African creations without European influence, and they transformed European understanding of African history.

Why study the kingdom of Benin?

To research and understand a society that produced such stunning works of art is perhaps reason enough for studying the kingdom of Benin, as is consideration of the contradiction between such creativity on the one hand, and the practice of human sacrifice, the acquisition and selling of human captives, and the exceptionally warlike inclinations of the kingdom on the other.

For schools following Key Stage 3 History in the English National Curriculum, this section could be a case study to complement study of the slave trade. To get an idea of what an African state was like at the time of the slave trade will help to challenge preconceptions about Africa in the 16th–18th centuries. It is also significant because contact with the Europeans seems to have affected the kingdom of Benin, increasing its appetite for taking slaves, precipitating its decline.

The kingdom of Benin can be seen both as a society corrupted by the European demand for slaves and one that willingly satisfied this demand as a further and more lucrative outlet for its commercial ambitions. Consideration of this will help pupils realise that those affected by the slave trade were not just the captives themselves, but whole societies.

Located wholly within what is now Nigeria, the kingdom of Benin at its zenith stretched from Lagos in the west to beyond the River Niger in the east, an area that equates to about a fifth of modern-day Nigeria. Inland from the fertile coastal belt there is tropical forest, beyond which lies a narrow strip of grassland savannah which is suitable for agriculture. A European traveller who visited in the 1720s described the many villages, carefully cultivated fields, and the production of three or four harvests a year (Des Marchais, quoted in Gayibor 1986:16):

According to the kingdom of Benin’s mythology, their land is the cradle of the world which was founded by the first king, the youngest son of Osanobua the Supreme God. When the Supreme God sent his children to the world, the earth was all water and void, and he gave them the option to choose their heart’s desires. One of his children chose wealth, one chose knowledge, and another chose medicine or mystical knowledge. The youngest child had nothing apparently to choose and looking around, he saw a snail shell which was found to contain sand. On the instructions of a divine bird, the youngest son upturned the snail shell in an area which became land – the kingdom of Benin. The youngest son became the owner of the land, which made him powerful and wealthy, and on the request of his elder brothers, he had to share portions of it with them for their settlement.

The history of Benin as a unified kingdom is believed to have begun in the 12th or 13th centuries AD. According to belief, the local Edo chiefs tired of fighting among themselves and decided to invite the Ife chief, Oduduwa, to become their leader. He sent his son, who had a child, Eweka, by the daughter of a local chief. This child became the first king (Oba) of Benin. This tale might, however, hide the fact that Benin was invaded by the kingdom of Ife.

The most famous Oba was Ewuare, who ruled between about 1440 and 1480. Before Ewuare took over there was a state of near anarchy in Benin with conflict between the Oba and the Uzama, the traditional council of chiefs, which even resulted in two of the royal sons being exiled. Ewuare came to power by murdering the Oba, his brother, not an unusual occurrence in a society in which the rules of succession were blurred. He inherited a city which had been partly destroyed in the turmoil, and set about rebuilding it. He increased his own power through a series of reforms designed to weaken the influence of the Uzama.

The Uzama was responsible for choosing the next Oba, so Ewuare established the principle of succession by primogeniture, and underlined the point by making the crown prince an automatic member of the Uzama. He also created new types of chiefs – the palace chiefs and the town chiefs – and ensured that they competed against each other for influence, rather than against him. He finished the huge walls, moats and earthworks that surrounded Benin City, said by some to be 30 feet high and stretch for 1,200km. He also greatly increased the territory of the kingdom, and his son Ozolua carried on his work bringing the empire to its furthest limits.

Though the Oba had full and supreme power, he was still expected to take the advice of the Uzama, and also to consult with both the town and palace chiefs. The Queen Mother was also raised to a position of prominence. She had her own domain and fiefs, and she was the political and spiritual protector of the Oba. In accordance with the power dynamics of the period, she functioned as a member of the town chiefs.

Ewuare allowed his newly created chiefs the right to collect tribute – paid twice-yearly in palm oil, yams and other foodstuffs. He divided Benin City into two areas separated by a wide avenue – on one side the palace, on the other the town. He began the period of the warrior kings in which Benin expanded militarily.

Ozolua ascended the throne around 1483 and was a great warrior king who ‘fought many desperate battles and waged war upon war.’ Benin tradition still remembers him as an able strategist who ‘would sometimes march against the enemy with very few soldiers in order that he might feel the weight and seriousness of the fight.’ It is said that each time he prayed, he would always pray to his ancestors to give him war.

Ozolua’s son Esigie established close links with the Portuguese when they arrived in the 1500s, and it is said he learnt to read and speak their language. He established a royal monopoly over trade with Europeans in pepper and ivory. Yet he kept his distance regarding the Portuguese demands for slaves, forbidding the export of male captives from the kingdom. Nevertheless, he allowed women captives to be exported, and was not averse to making war in order to capture people for later sale. Under Esigie there was a flourishing of arts and crafts, and many of the famous palace bronzes date from his reign.

Benin began to decline during the 17th century. From about 1600, the Obas stopped leading their troops into battle and became more symbolic figures. Several hundred years later, in the years prior to the British Punitive Expedition in 1897, royal influence in Benin was increasingly under threat from rival forces, both internal and external, who wanted economic power and control of the important trading monopolies. Some scholars say that the insatiable demand of Europeans for slaves caused the Obas to overreach themselves both in terms of external aggression and internal repression, and in the selling of their own people into slavery. Nevertheless, the court and palace remained the political and spiritual centre of the kingdom.

British Punitive Expedition 1897

This episode has to be seen in the context of the spread of British control over the whole of what is now Nigeria at the start of the colonial period – the kingdom of Benin was just one of the targets. The initial problem arose out of the decision by a British consul, Phillips, to visit the Oba with a small armed group, against the advice of the British Governor, other Nigerian chiefs, and repeated warnings, threats and pleas by the Oba himself. Phillips persisted and he and his group were killed. A punitive expedition was then sent, which arrested and deposed the Oba and put an end to five centuries of the kingdom’s history, with the British Army looting and destroying the capital city.

Farming was the main economic activity at village level, and large family units were encouraged to provide an effective labour force. Polygamy was practised, and it may have arisen because of the need to increase the number of hands for farm labour.

All land for farming or residence purposes was communal and held by the Oba on behalf of the people. This probably explains the origin of the payment of tribute by each village to the Oba through his representatives – usually town or palace chiefs. Generally, the payment of tribute was one aspect of the economic support for both the local and central government in the kingdom of Benin. After farming, the manufacture of palm oil was undoubtedly the most important industry.

The production of cloth was widespread, and cotton growing and weaving were practised extensively throughout the kingdom. Samuel Brun, visiting in about 1614, noted that the kingdom of Benin made ‘very beautiful cloths, which are exported far and wide and sold’. Weaving was generally done by women in their spare time. Their cloth was not only for personal use, but for long-distance trade with other African societies, thousands of such cloths being shipped annually by the middle of the 17th century. This may have given women greater status in Benin society.

The kingdom of Benin had had contact with the Mediterranean for at least 1,500 years before the Europeans arrived on the coast of West Africa. The kingdom’s commercial and foreign relations were well established. Copper bracelet money (called manillas) as well as cowrie shells and other currencies were used.

These manillas were part of an international trading relationship. They were mass produced in Europe at this time and were sent to Benin in exchange for slaves. These manillas were often melted down and used in the production of bronze and brass goods, including the bronze plaques, and the finished works might then be exported back to Europe.

In 1553, an English merchant, Thomas Wyndham, was received by the Oba, who conducted trading negotiations with him in person, a practice common in the 16th century and confirmed by Portuguese reports. Trade with Europe was considerable. Just one Dutch ship, the Olyphant, delivered 88,235 lbs of ivory and 1,337 lbs of pepper from the kingdom of Benin to the Netherlands in 1630.

Enslavement was practised in the kingdom of Benin long before the Europeans arrived. The possession of a large number of slaves was a sign of the social status and prestige of a man or chief in the society. Enslaved people were used as the labour force in the domestic economy, n wars of conquests or expansion, for human sacrifices, and by the Oba in the maintenance and expansion of the guild system. New villages composed entirely of slaves were set up by the Obas and chiefs to increase farming productivity.

During the 16th century, the Obas imposed a ban on the sale of Benin male captives to Europeans, though the ban did not extend to women. Male captives won in conquest could, however, be sold, and this encouraged the warlike tendencies of the kingdom. In the 17th century, the Obas lost the monopoly of the kingdom’s trade with Europe, and the chiefs rescinded the ban on selling male captives for the transatlantic trade.

The basis of the craft guild system was that each guild was created to supply the needs of the Oba. For instance, the guild of blacksmiths and ironsmiths supplied the weapons of war and other implements, while the guild of bronze-casters and carvers supplied all objects required by the palace. Also practising were the guilds of doctors, leather-workers, drummers, leopard hunters, dancers and carpenters. In return for their services, each guild was given a monopoly in its particular trade or craft.

Copper, which was needed for the making of brass and bronze, had to be imported from mines in central Africa or acquired in trade. Many of the goods that were made were used in the export economy.

The palace was the focus of public ceremonies which followed the different stages of the farming calendar. These ceremonies had the benefit of confirming the Oba as the focus of affairs of the kingdom, and of celebrating his power and importance in all aspects of daily life.

Many people from different sections of society, including chiefs and officials, craft guilds or representatives of local communities, played a part in the ritual pageantry. Craftsmen produced splendid costumes and ritual materials for the king and chiefs, and farmers supplied food for the feasts.

Human sacrifice, usually of criminals or prisoners of war, was practised. This was partly linked to the religious practice of vodun (voodoo). The bodies of young women found at the bottom of a well, dressed in jewels and finery, are evidence of the importance of such rituals.

Before its destruction, Benin City possessed an extensive network of wide streets. A complex city wall system with a moat and nine gates protected the city from intruders. The palace compound itself occupied a large part of the city.

The city was divided into the palace where the Oba and the palace chiefs lived, the town where the town chiefs and the artisans lived, and outside the walls where the Uzama had to live in villages.

Palace grounds also encompassed the private living quarters of the king, various reception courts, the quarters of the three palace societies, and the royal harem. Around the 17th century the wooden pillars supporting the roof of the galleries were decorated with the famous bronze plaques. In the 19th century the pillars were made of clay, and bore reliefs worked directly into the material. Doors and beams in the royal precinct were in some cases covered with hand-embossed sheet brass, or decorated with inlaid mirrors.

The defensive fortification of Benin City included over 10,000km of earth boundaries, and was probably constructed between about AD 800 and 1500. The Guinness Book of World Records describes the walls as the world’s second largest man-made structure after China’s Great Wall in terms of length, and the series of earthen ramparts as the most extensive earthwork in the world.

Dutch writer Olfert Dapper described Benin City at its height:

‘When you go into it you enter a great broad street, which is not paved, and seems to be seven or eight times greater than Warmoes Street in Amsterdam. This street is straight, and does not bend at any point. It is thought to be 4 miles long.

At the gate where I went in on horseback, I saw a very big wall, very thick and made of earth, with a very deep and broad ditch outside it… And outside this gate there is also a big suburb. Inside the gate, and along the great street just mentioned, you see many other great streets on either side, and these are also straight and do not bend… The houses in this town stand in good order, one close evenly placed with its neighbour, just as the houses in Holland stand… They have square rooms, sheltered by a roof that is open in the middle, where the rain, wind and light come in. The people sleep and eat in these rooms, but they have other rooms for cooking and for different purposes… The king’s court is very great. It is built around many square-shaped yards. These yards have surrounding galleries where sentries are always placed. I myself went into the court far enough to pass through four great yards like this, and yet wherever I looked I could still see gate after gate which opened into other yards.’

The Oba was the supreme military commander of the army and took responsibility for leading the soldiers to war personally. He was thus entitled to receive the largest share of tribute and fines, and of plunder taken in war. This made him the richest member of the state, and gave him the most followers and the most captives. He needed these to maintain status, and so he was virtually obliged to take an active role.

Warriors used a variety of weapons such as bows and poisoned arrows, spears, iron swords, assegais and the crossbow. The variety of weapons used for war made it possible to compose the warriors into divisions of swordsmen, archers, spearmen and crossbowmen. There was no cavalry in the army since the tsetse fly made it virtually impossible to breed horses.

The army was divided into regiments, companies and platoons, and training was thorough, especially in battlefield tactics. There were almost as many sieges as pitched battles.

The use of firearms by the Portuguese mercenaries who accompanied Esigie to the war with Idah in about 1515 had a decisive effect on the outcome of the war, and so the Obas began importing guns in great quantities. They had to pay for them with captives, which meant further wars were needed, and so the cycle continued.

Unlike some African civilisations, quite a lot is known about the kingdom of Benin at its height, since this period coincided with the arrival of the Europeans who gave accounts of what they saw. The objects that were produced also reveal a considerable amount about matters such as crafts, weapons, clothing, court ritual, etc.

Two of the most quoted written accounts – those of Dapper and Equiano – need to be treated with caution. Dapper never visited the kingdom, and the much-used illustrations in his book are based on the accounts of European travellers, but he was credited with extensive research and reading of first-hand accounts from travellers. Equiano may never have lived in Benin, and, therefore his reports may also be based on other people’s accounts.

Dapper, O, 1668, Naukeurige Beschrijvinge de Afrikaensche gewesten (Jacob von Meurs)

Equiano, O, 1789, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, (privately printed) online at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15399/15399-h/15399-h.htm, accessed 10 May 2010

Graham, J, 1965, ‘The Slave Trade, Depopulation and Human Sacrifice in Benin’, Cahiers d’études africaines, Vol. 5, No. 18, 317–334

Ohadike, A, 1964, A Social History of the Western Igbo People (Ohio University Press)

Osadolor, O, 2001, The military system of Benin kingdom, c. 1440–1897 (Hamburg)

Plankensteiner, B (ed.), 2007, Benin Kings and Rituals: court arts from Nigeria (Snoeck)

Read, C H, and Dalton, O M, 1898, ‘Works of art from Benin City’, in The Journal of the

Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 27, 362-382

Sargent, R, 1986, ‘From A Redistribution to an Imperial Social Formation: Benin c. 1293–1536’, Canadian Journal of African Studies Vol. 20, No. 3, 402–427

Shillington, K, 2005, Encyclopedia of African history, Vol. 1 (Fitzroy Dearborn)


Kingdom of Benin Timeline - History

The Benin Empire and Slave Trade – A History Lesson in 5 Minutes

Source of map:

The military system of Benin Kingdom 1440-1897 (O.B. Osadolor PhD Thesis, Hamburg, July 2001)

Benin Empire, A House Divided: 1100 – 1299

The first kingdom of Benin is believed to have developed in the 12th or 13th century. It was located in present-day southern Nigeria, east of the Yoruba land and west of the Niger River. The inhabitants of Benin spoke a group of closely related languages known as Edo. In fact, the Benin Empire may also be referred to as the Edo Empire. During this early time, historians believe that the forested area around Benin City housed as many as several dozen small, quarrelsome chiefdoms.

Benin Unites: 1300 – 1350

Around 1300 [SOME PUT IT 100 YEARS EARLIER], the chiefdoms around Benin City united. Benin tradition tells us that when the chiefs agreed to unite, they invited Oranyan (also known as Oranmiyan) from nearby Ife to come and be their leader. Oranyan married a Benin woman, and their son, Eweka, is considered the first king, or oba, of Benin. However, some historians argue that the story of Oranyan being “invited” to rule Benin and marrying the daughter of a Benin chief was invented to cover up the fact that Benin was at that time occupied by invaders. It was during this time period (and possibly as a result of Oranyan coming to Benin) that Benin people supposedly learned from Ife people how to cast brass and bronze.

Oba Ewuare Makes Reforms: 1400 – 1486

During the 15th century, Oba Ewuare of Benin made many important reforms. One of his primary aims was to lessen the influence of the uzama, a body of hereditary chiefs who participated in the selection of the oba. He did this in part by implementing primogeniture, the rule that a father should be succeeded by his son. He also created new types of chiefs &ndash “palace chiefs” and “town chiefs” &ndash to compete with the uzama. The palace chiefs and town chiefs were appointed by the oba and were responsible for collecting the tribute that the villages and districts offered to the court twice each year. Through these reforms, Ewuare established a system of checks and balances in which “palace” and “town” chiefs competed with the uzama for influence. Also, free male commoners were able to improve their station in society by competing for the chiefly titles awarded by the oba. Benin tradition credits Ewuare with constructing a huge system of walls and moats around the capital, Benin city. Ewuare also greatly increased the domain of the Benin Empire. He and his son, Ozolua, expanded the territory under Benin rule from the Niger River in the east to the eastern portions of Yoruba land in the west.

Enter the Europeans (and Esigie): 1486 – 1550

In 1486, Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to reach the area of West Africa in which the Benin Empire was located. Unlike the Chinese at that time, the obas of Benin saw the benefits of trading with Europeans. Ozolua’s son, Esigie, who reigned from around 1504 until 1550, forged close contacts with the Portuguese. Some accounts say that he even learned to speak and read Portuguese. Four of Benin’s primary exports were pepper, ivory, palm oil, and cloth. The obas controlled trade in pepper and ivory through a government monopoly.

Arts also flourished during Esigie’s time. Esigie’s grandfather, Ewuare, had divided Benin City into two wards – one for the palace and one for artists and craftsworkers. Trade with Europe during Esigie’s reign brought copper and brass into Benin, allowing Benin’s artists to refine techniques of bronze and brass casting that had been known to them for centuries. Artists produced an amazing array of brass plaques and sculptures and bronze bas-reliefs that adorned the walls of the oba’s palace.

The Slave Trade: 1486 – 1807

Throughout much of Benin’s history, the slave trade played a role – sometimes large, sometimes smaller – in Benin’s economy. There are a couple of possible conflicts among sources regarding the slave trade. According to

“Benin prevented the depletion of its own population by prohibiting the export of male slaves during the 16th and 17th centuries, although it did import slaves purchased by Europeans elsewhere in West Africa, and resold some of them to the region which is now Ghana.” On the other hand,

states that “The Portuguese first visited Benin in the late 15th century, and, for a time, Benin traded&hellipslaves with Portuguese and Dutch traders.” The latter source makes no mention of restrictions regarding the trading of male slaves. Also,

says that “Benin grew increasingly rich during the 16th and 17th centuries on the slave trade with Europe slaves from enemy states of the interior were sold, and carried to the Americas in Dutch and Portuguese ships.”

There is also a possible conflict between the same three sources regarding Benin’s policy on the slave trade during the 18th century. The view of

is that “Historians of Benin know relatively little about the kingdom’s history during the 18th century, although they recognize that slaves supplanted cloth as Benin’s major export after it abolished the prohibition on slave exports.” However,

asserts that “Benin stopped trading slaves with Europeans in the 18th century and focused attention on dependent regions around it.” These statements, while seemingly contradictory, are not mutually exclusive. It is possible that Benin did lift the ban on exporting male slaves during the 18th century, but that they decided to export slaves to nearby regions rather than Europe. However, this theory is contradicted by

which says that “It [the Slave Coast] became one of the most important export centers for the Atlantic slave trade from the early 16th century to the 19th century.”

Benin Declines: 1807 – 1897

In 1486, Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to reach the area of West Africa in which the Benin Empire was located. Unlike the Chinese at that time, the obas of Benin saw the benefits of trading with Europeans. Ozolua’s son, Esigie, who reigned from around 1504 until 1550, forged close contacts with the Portuguese. Some accounts say that he even learned to speak and read Portuguese. Four of Benin’s primary exports were pepper, ivory, palm oil, and cloth. The obas controlled trade in pepper and ivory through a government monopoly.

Arts also flourished during Esigie’s time. Esigie’s grandfather, Ewuare, had divided Benin City into two wards – one for the palace and one for artists and craftsworkers. Trade with Europe during Esigie’s reign brought copper and brass into Benin, allowing Benin’s artists to refine techniques of bronze and brass casting that had been known to them for centuries. Artists produced an amazing array of brass plaques and sculptures and bronze bas-reliefs that adorned the walls of the oba’s palace.

Tradition asserts that the Edo people became dissatisfied with the rule of a dynasty of semimythical kings, the ogisos, and in the 13th century they invited Prince Oranmiyan of Ife to rule them. His son Eweka is regarded as the first oba, or king, of Benin, though authority would remain for many years with a hereditary order of local chiefs. Late in the 13th century, royal power began to assert itself under the oba Ewedo and was firmly established under the most famous oba, Ewuare the Great (reigned c. 1440&ndash80), who was described as a great warrior and magician. He established a hereditary succession to the throne and vastly expanded the territory of the Benin kingdom, which by the mid-16th century extended from the Niger River delta in the east to what is now Lagos in the west. (Lagos was in fact founded by a Benin army and continued to pay tribute to the oba of Benin until the end of the 19th century.) Ewuare also rebuilt the capital (present-day Benin City), endowing it with great walls and moats. The oba became the supreme political, judicial, economic, and spiritual leader of his people, and he and his ancestors eventually became the object of state cults that utilized human sacrifice in their religious observances.

Ewuare was succeeded by a line of strong obas, chief of whom were Ozolua the Conqueror (c. 1481&ndashc. 1504 the son of Ewuare) and Esigie (early to mid-16th century the son of Ozolua), who enjoyed good relations with the Portuguese and sent ambassadors to their king. Under these obas Benin became a highly organized state. Its numerous craftsmen were organized into guilds, and the kingdom became famous for its ivory and wood carvers. Its brass smiths and bronze casters excelled at making naturalistic heads, bas-reliefs, and other sculptures. From the 15th through the 18th century Benin carried on an active trade in ivory, palm oil, and pepper with Portuguese and Dutch traders, for whom it served as a link with tribes in the interior of western Africa. It also profited greatly from the slave trade. But during the 18th and early 19th centuries the kingdom was weakened by violent succession struggles between members of the royal dynasty, some of which erupted into civil wars. The weaker obas sequestered themselves in their palaces and took refuge in the rituals of divine kingship while indiscriminately granting aristocratic titles to an expanding class of nonproductive nobles. The kingdom’s prosperity declined with the suppression of the slave trade, and, as its territorial extent shrank, Benin’s leaders increasingly relied on supernatural rituals and large-scale human sacrifices to protect the state from further territorial encroachment. The practice of human sacrifice was stamped out only after the burning of Benin City in 1897 by the British, after which the depopulated and debilitated kingdom was incorporated into British Nigeria. The descendants of Benin’s ruling dynasty still occupy the throne in Benin City (although the present-day oba has only an advisory role in government).

The Ogiso Dynasty (Before the Obas of Benin) By: Naiwu Osahon

Kings of Benin

Ogisos follow:

1. Ogiso Igodo (40 BC &ndash 16 AD)

5. Ogiso Ighido (400 CE &ndash 414 AD)

6. Ogiso Evbuobo (414 -432 AD)

7. Ogiso Ogbeide (432 &ndash 447 AD)

8. Ogiso Emehe (447 &ndash 466 AD)

9. Ogiso Ekpigho (466 &ndash 482 AD)

10. Ogiso Akhuankhuan (482 &ndash 494 AD)

11. Ogiso Efeseke (494&ndash 508 AD)

12. Ogiso Irudia (508&ndash 522 AD)

13. Ogiso Orria (522&ndash 537 AD)

14. Ogiso Imarhan (537&ndash 548 AD)

15. Ogiso Etebowe (548&ndash 567 AD)

16. Ogiso Odion (567&ndash 584 AD)

17. Ogiso Emose (584&ndash 600 AD)

18. Ogiso Ororo (600&ndash 618 AD)

19. Ogiso Erebo (618&ndash 632 AD)

20. Ogiso Ogbomo (632 &ndash647 AD)

21. Ogiso Agbonzeke (647&ndash665 AD)

22. Ogiso Ediae (665&ndash 685 AD)

23. Ogiso Orriagba (685&ndash 712 AD)

24. Ogiso Odoligie (712&ndash 767 AD)

26. Ogiso Eheneden (821&ndash871 AD)

27. Ogiso Ohuede (871&ndash 917 AD)

28. Ogiso Oduwa (917&ndash 967 AD)

29. Ogiso Obioye (967&ndash 1012 AD)

30. Ogiso Arigho (1012&ndash 1059 AD)

31. Ogiso Owodo (1059-1100 AD)

Obas follow:

Ewuare, the Great (about 1440)

Ozolua the Conqueror. (about 1481 A.D.)

Oba Erediauwa, Uku Akpolo Kpolo, the Omo N’Oba N’Edo (1979 &ndash present).

Slave Ports in West Africa in 1750 (Slavery in America, an educator’s site made possible by New York Life)

Slave ports in West Africa in 1750 are shown, identifying those held by the British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Danish. Gorée Island, the slave trading port opposite Dakar, Senegal, is only three kilometers from the coast and cannot be seen on this map. In addition to these ports were slave trading locations on the east side of Africa, at Mozambique, Zanzibar, and Madagascar.

Slave Trade From Africa to the Americas (Slavery in America, an educator’s site made possible by New York Life)

Slave trade routes from Africa to the Americas during the period 1650-1860 are shown. There were additional routes to the New World from Mozambique, Zanzibar and Madagascar on the east side of Africa. Most of the slaves from the east side were brought to Portuguese controlled Salvador in the state of Bahia, Brazil, along with many other slaves from Angola. Brazil received more slaves from Africa than any other country in the New World. The 500ꯠ African slaves sent to America represents 10% of the number sent to Brazil, and 11% of the number sent to the West Indies. According to the estimates of Hugh Thomas (12), a total of 11걠ꯠ African slaves were delivered live to the New World, including 500ꯠ to British North America therefore, only 4.5% of the total African slaves delivered to the New World were delivered to British North America. Also from Hugh Thomas, the major sources of the 13 million slaves departing from Africa (see slave ports map, above) were Congo/Angola (3 million), Gold Coast (1.5 million), Slave Coast (2 million), Benin to Calabar* (2 million), and Mozambique/Madagascar on the east coast of Africa (1 million).

*Benin refers to the historic Kingdom of Benin (not to be confused with today’s country of Benin), in Nigeria just below the Slave Coast. Calabar is farther down the coast of Nigeria, close to the border with Cameroon, on the Bight of Biafra in the Gulf of Guinea.

Slavery Timeline

1450-1650: Slavery along the Senegambia, Sierra Leone coasts to Europe and trans-Atlantic

1650 onwards: Slavery in West Africa / Central Africa Coast in Trans-Atlantic trade

1700 – 1800: Height (or depth) of Transatlantic slave trade

1807: Great Britain passes the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolishing the Transatlantic slave trade and levying fines on British captains importing slaves of up to £100 per slave. United States entirely abolishes Slave Trade. British minister in Lisbon instructed to lobby for Treaty to abolish Portuguese slave trade

1808: British West Africa Squadron is established at Sierra Leone to suppress the British slave trade. British Minister in Madrid instructed to lobby for Treaty to abolish Spanish slave trade.

1810:Portugal signs Treaty with Great Britain to abolish slave trade gradually, and in the mean time to prohibit it in places where it was discontinued by other powers.

1818:`Felony Act’ makes Slave Trade a felony. British subjects engaged in it will be punished with transportation or five years imprisonment.

1814:Denmark signs treaty with Great Britain, to prohibit slave trade. Holland decrees to forbid Dutch slave trade on Coast of Africa. Austria, Russia, Prussia and France engage at Congress to assist Great Britain in abolishing the slave trade. Spain signs treaty with Great Britain to permit slave trade solely for the supply of her own possessions.

1815: Great Britain, Austria, France, Portugal, Prussia, Spain and Sweden sign a Declaration denouncing the slave trade at the Congess of Vienna. Portugal signs treaty with Great Britain declaring Portugal slave trade north of the equator illegal, fixing a period for its entire abolition, and permitting the Trade only for its Transatlantic possessions. Napoleon issues a decree abolishing all French slave trade

1817: Louis XVIII issues a decree abolishing French slave trade. Portugal signs treaty with Great Britain conceding the Right of Search (allowing the Royal Navy to search vessels suspected of trading slaves), establishing Mixed Commissions, and regulating Portuguese slave trade south of the equator. Spain signs treaty with Great Britain abolishing the slave trade north of the equator, conceding Right of Search, establishing Mixed Commissions and commit to abolish the slave trade entirely after 30 May 1820.

1818: Netherlands sign treaty with Great Britain to suppress their slave trade, conceding Right of Search and establishing Mixed Commissions

1820: United States pass law declaring the American slave trade an act of piracy punishable by death.

1822: Spain add an article to the 1817 Treaty, authorising the condemnation of vessels proved to have had slaves on board on the voyage in which they were taken. Netherlands add an article to the 1818 Treaty for the same purpose.

1823: Netherlands add an article to the 1818 Treaty authorising vessels engaged in the slave trade be condemned for slave trade equipment and broken up. Portugal add an article to the 1817 Treaty authorising the condemnation of vessels proved to have had slaves on board on the voyage in which they were taken. Anti-Slavery Committee is formed to campaign for the total abolition of slavery. Members include Thomas Clarkson, Henry Brougham, William Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton.

1824: Act of Parliament declares the slave trade an act of piracy, punishable by death. Sweden signs treaty with Great Britain to suppress their slave trade, conceding Right of Search, establishing Mixed Commissions and authorising the condemnation of vessels equipped for the slave trade. Buenos Aires pass law declaring the American slave trade an act of piracy

1825: Buenos Aires and Columbia sign Treaty with Great Britain committing to the total abolition of the slave trade and forbidding it in its own dominions.

1826 Brazil signs treaty with Great Britain to abolish its slave trade in three years, and in the interim, to adopt the 1817 Treaty between Portugal and Great Britain. Mexico signs Treaty with Great Britain committing to the total abolition of the slave trade and forbidding it in its own dominions.

1827: France passes law to punish those engaged in the slave trade by fine, imprisonment and banishment.

1831: France signs treaty with Great Britain conceding a limited right of search. Brazil passes decree to punish those engaged in the slave trade by fines and corporal punishment, and declaring that slave vessels arriving in Brazil will be confiscated. Freed slave Mary Prince publishes The History of Mary Prince, an account of her experiences as a slave. The book becomes a powerful instrument in the campaign against slavery.

1832: Brazil orders for ships to be searched on their arrival at Rio to enforce the 1831 Decree.

1833: France signs treaty with Great Britain authorising the condemnation of slave vessels equipped for the slave trade. The Abolition of Slave Act abolishes slavery in all of Great Britain’s colonies. Twenty million pounds is granted in compensation to slave holders. The Act declares free all slaves under the age of 6 years. Former slaves must serve as apprentices for 4 years before being freed. William Wilberforce dies three days after the Bill is passed by Parliament

1834: Denmark and Sardinia sign treaty with Great Britain and France, agreeing to the terms of the previous treaties between the two nations in 1831 and 1833.

1835: Spain signs treaty with Great Britain entirely abolishing the slave trade, granting the Right of Search, establishing Mixed Commissions, authorising that vessels equipped for the slave trade be condemned and broken up, and declaring that slaves liberated by the Mixed Commission should be delivered to the government whose cruiser made the capture Sweden and Norway add an article to 1824 Treaty, stipulating that vessels condemned for the slave trade should be broken up before sale. Russia issues a circular withdrawing her protection from slave vessels making use of her flag.

1836: Portugal issues a decree abolishing the slave trade, limiting the number of slaves to be transported by colonists, committing to punish Portuguese slave traders and authorising the condemnation of vessels equipped for the slave trade.

1837: Netherlands add an article declaring that vessels condemned for the slave trade should be broken up before sale. Bolivia signs treaty with Great Britain to co-operate in the total abolition of the slave trade and prohibiting its subjects engaging in the trade. Tuscany signs treaty with Great Britain and France agreeing to the terms of the previous treaties between the two nations in 1831 and 1833.

1838: Naples signs treaty with Great Britain and France agreeing to the terms of the previous treaties between the two nations in 1831 and 1833. Great Britain pass an Act of Parliament reducing the punishment for the slave trade from that of death to transportation, or imprisonment for three years. Enslaved people are emancipated in British colonies when the apprenticeship scheme fails.

1839: Chile and Venezuela sign treaty with Great Britain, conceding the Right of Search, the establishment of Mixed Commissions, authorising the condemnation of vessels equipped for the slave trade, and declaring that liberated slaves are to be given over to the government whose cruisers made the capture. Argentine Confederation and Uruguay sign treaty with Great Britain on the same terms as the 1835 Treaty with Spain. Act of Parliament passed authorising British cruisers to detain Portuguese slave vessels and British Vice-Admiralty courts to condemn them. Haiti signs treaty with Great Britain and France agreeing to the terms of the previous treaties between the two nations in 1831 and 1833. Slaves revolt on board the slave ship Amistad off the coast of Cuba, resulting in the arrest of the Africans on arrival in the United States. American abolitionists rally to their cause. Pope Gregory XVI issues a Bull against the slave trade.

1840: Greece issues a decree against the slave trade. Bolivia signs treaty with Great Britain on the same terms as the 1835 Treaty with Spain.

1841: Mexico signs treaty with Great Britain declaring slave trade an act of piracy, conceding a Right of Search, authorising that vessels equipped for the slave trade should be condemned and broken up before sale, and declaring that liberated slaves are to be given over to the government whose cruisers made the capture. Tunis forbids the export of slaves from her possessions and commits to suppress the slave trade. Austria, France, Prussia and Russia sign treaty with Great Britain for the more effectual suppression of the slave trade, extending the Right of Search, authorising the condemnation of vessels equipped for slave trade. Austria, Prussia and Russia declare the slave trade to be an act of piracy.

1842: Portugal signs a treaty with Great Britain giving British cruisers Right of Search, authorising the condemnation of vessels equipped for slave trade, establishing Mixed Commissions, declaring the slave trade to be an act of piracy, regulating the number of slaves to be carried by Portuguese subjects, declaring that liberated slaves are to be given over to the government whose cruisers made the capture. United States signs Treaty with Great Britain agreeing to keep a fleet of guns on the Coast of Africa for the suppression of the slave trade. Chile passes a law declaring the slave trade to be an act of piracy. Tunisia abolishes the slave trade and any children born to slaves are declared free

1843: Acts of Parliament 6 & 7 Vict, c.98 passed for the more effective suppression of the slave trade.

1845: Brazil announce that Convention of 1817 to cease, signifying the end of the Right to Search, and issues powers for negotiation of a new treaty. Bolivia passes a law in Congress making the slave trade an act of piracy. Venezuela issues a law entirely prohibiting the import of slaves and declaring them free on reaching Venezuelan territories. Germany passes Resolution to prohibit the slave trade and to punish it as piracy or kidnapping. Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia authorise the detention of vessels having a larger quantity of water in casks than required for the use of the crew Turkey abolishes its slave markets at Constantinople and the Sultan prohibits the import of slaves to ports in the Persian Gulf, and orders a squadron for that purpose

1847: Borneo signs a treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade. The independent chiefs of the Persian Gulf make treaties with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade. New Grenada passes law prohibiting import and export of slaves.

1848: Persian prohibits import of slaves by sea. Portugal appoints a Commission for inquiring into means of abolishing slave trade in Portuguese colonies. Venezuela prohibits import of slaves. France emancipates their slaves.

1849: Belgium signs to Treaty of 1841 between Great Britain, Austria, France, Prussia and Russia for suppression of African slave trade.

1851: Brazil closes its slave depots south of Rio.New Grenada signs treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade and passes law for the total abolition of slavery in New Grenada. Mexico passes law declaring slave trade to be an act of piracy.Peru and Brazil add articles to treaties forbidding the introduction of negroes by land. Sardinian government declare conviction of slave trading will be punished by fifteen years’ hard labour and fine of 24 000 lire.

1853: Brazil issues a decree for emancipation of slaves after 14 years’ service. Uruguay declare the slave trade to be an act of piracy

1853 &ndash 1856 Crimean War breaks out and the Royal Navy’s strongest ships are withdrawn from both sides of the Atlantic, leading to an increase in the slave trade.

1854: Venezuela passes law entirely abolishing the slave trade.

1855: Brazil issues a decree declaring that Captains and Masters conveying slaves from one province to another without passports, to be punished by fine and imprisonment. Egypt prohibits the import of slaves from Abyssinia. Portugal passes laws for eventual abolition of slave trade in Ambriz, Cabenda and Molembo on the west coast of Africa and Macao dependencies, and granting freedom to all slaves arriving in Portugal or its colonies.

1857: Turkey sanctions the abolition of Negro slavery. Portugal abolishes slave trade at St Vincent.

1858 : Portugal issues decree abolishing slavery in Portuguese transmarine provinces in 20 years and prohibits the transfer of slaves to San Antao and San Nicolau, Cape Verde.

1859: United States introduce a Bill for the more effective suppression of the slave trade by the U S government. Spain issues orders against the slave trade at Fernando Po.

1861: Comoro Islands make agreement with Great Britain on the abolition of the slave trade. American Civil War begins, prompted by the north-south divide over slavery.

1862: United States signs treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade.

1863: United States adds article to treaty extending the right of search to the coast of Madagascar.

1865: United States abolishes the slavery at the end of the American Civil War, with the introduction of the 13th Amendment.

1869: Portugal is the last European country to abolish the slave trade.

1886: Cuba abolishes slavery.

1888: Brazil abolishes slavery.

Denman, J – Instructions for the Suppression of the Slave Trade: Chronology of treaties 1865

Lloyd, C – The Navy and the Slave Trade London: Longmans Green, 1949


The People of Benin

Type of Government: republic

Languages Spoken: French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)

Independence: 1 August 1960 (from France)

National Holiday: National Day, 1 August (1960)

Nationality: Beninese (singular and plural)

Religions: indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%

National Symbol: leopard

National Anthem or Song: L'Aube Nouvelle (The Dawn of a New Day)


Benin — History and Culture

Benin’s history is one of great violence and tragedy, but also of perseverance. Today, the region is one of the most politically stable in West Africa and continues to overcome the torrid legacies of its past. The culture is eclectic, largely a result of many different ethnic groups in the country, but is also strongly connected to the often misunderstood and misrepresented Voodoo religion.

History

Benin was once a great African kingdom, but it was transformed into the largest supplier of humans for the slave trade. The Portuguese arrived in the area in the 15th century, which marked the fall of one of Africa’s most powerful territories. At the height of the slave trade, tens of thousands of people were being deported at a time and Benin’s waterfront earned the name the Slave Coast.

In 1872, the country was colonized by the French and in 1904 it became Dahomey, part of French West Africa. With the wave of decolonization gaining momentum in the late 1950’s, Dahomey became a self-governing state in 1958 and finally gained full independence in 1960.

Post decolonization saw several military coups. The last of these uprisings resulted in a strict Marxist government which ultimately transformed into an oppressive dictatorship. This ended in 1990 when the newly renamed Republic of Benin held its first free and fair elections.

Today, democracy is still the dominant political system, with the elected president heading the government. The country’s economy is still severely underdeveloped though, with a large portion of the country’s population living in abject poverty. More about Benin’s past can be learned at the Abomey Historical Museum just outside of Porto Novo.

Culture

Benin’s culture is as rich and diverse as its landscape. With strong religious roots to inform most of the traditions, Benin’s culture is certainly one of the most unique and interesting in Africa.

Music is of utmost importance in the country. The rhythmic sounds of drumming can be heard at most festivals and religious events. Not just a way to celebrate, music in Benin provides a way to express religious fervor. The country is also home to notable musicians, including the internationally acclaimed singer Angelique Kidjo.

The strong influence of the Voodoo religion is an important part of Benin, which tells of healing and rejuvenating talismans (‘fetishes’). The tradition of oral storytelling is still alive and well, which accounts for the absence of Beninese written literature, even though the culture prides itself in its ancient stories and folklore.

As with most clothing in West Africa, the textiles are vibrant and ornately decorated. Each cultural group, be it Fon, Yoruba, or Edo, has unique but recognizable attire, and in most tribes, different colors and patterns are worn for different occasions. Attending a cultural gathering in Benin, especially during a local festival, is a feast for the eyes.


List of Obas (Kings) of Benin Empire

The title of Oba was adopted in Benin Empire after the Ogiso rule ended. The Oba title was created by Oba Oranmiyan, the first Oba of Benin Empire who is also a grand son of Oduduwa, the first Oni of Ile-Ife. Below is a list of kings (both Ogiso and Oba) of the Benin Empire.

OGISO DYNASTY

* Igodo or Obagodo
* Ere
* Orire
* Odia
* Ighido
* Evbobo
* Ogbeide
* Emehen
* Akhuankhuan
* Ekpigho
* Efeseke
* Irudia
* Etebowe
* Odion
* Imarhan
* Orria
* Emose (female)
* Orrorro (female)
* Irrebo
* Ogbomo
* Agbonzeke
* Ediae
* Oriagba
* Odoligie
* Uwa
* Eheneden
* Ohuede
* Oduwa
* Obioye
* Arigho
* Owodo- Last Ogiso ruler of Benin
* Oranmiyan- First Oba of Benin

EWEKA DYNASTY

Please note that these dates are quiet uncertain.
Pre-Imperial Obas of Benin (1180-1440)
* Eweka I (1180–1246)
* Uwuakhuahen (1246–1250)
* Henmihen (1250–1260)
* Ewedo (1260–1274)
* Oguola (1274–1287)
* Edoni (1287–1292)
* Udagbedo (1292–1329)
* Ohen (1329–1366)
* Egbeka (1366–1397)
* Orobiru (1397–1434)
* Uwaifiokun (1434–1440)


KS2 Kingdom of Benin Timeline Worksheets

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Classroom Secrets is a growing educational resource company based in Halifax. We pride ourselves in offering a wide range of exciting, engaging and high-quality resources for all early-years and primary year-groups. All of our resources are carefully created by qualified teachers, so you have more time to enjoy a #LIFEworkbalance. We offer both great value annual and month-by-month subscriptions, or you can download our resources individually on our TES shop.


KS2 Kingdom of Benin Timeline Worksheets

Aimed at KS2 learners, Kingdom of Benin Timeline Worksheets are differentiated in six levels and require pupils to fill in the dates of major events during the Kingdom of Benin.

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Differentiation:

Beginner Order the eight key events on a marked timeline. Aimed at Year 3 Secure/Year 4 Emerging.

Easy Order the eight key events on a blank timeline. Aimed at Year 4 Secure/Year 5 Emerging.

Tricky Order the ten key events on a marked timeline. Aimed at Year 5 Developing.

Expert Order the ten key events on a blank timeline. Aimed at Year 5 Secure/Year 6 Emerging.

Brainbox Order the twelve key events on a marked timeline. Aimed at Year 6 Developing.

Genius Order the twelve key events on a blank timeline. Aimed at Year 6 Mastery.


Watch the video: The Kingdom of Benin. History documentary