Market day on Lake Nakoue

Discovering Benin - History

History of Benin
Benin was once part of the Kingdom of Dahomey, which spread out over large parts of Western Africa.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, three kingdoms flourished in the south: Ardra, Jakin, and Dahomey. The first European contact was around 1500. Contact was made with the kingdom of Dahomey. One of its kings saw the advantage of trading with the Europeans and sought to expand his kingdom to the coast; this task was eventually achieved by his descendant Agadja in 1727. The Africans traded people as slaves in return for cloth, pots, plates, liquor, tools, and guns.

In the mid-18th century, the Yoruba kingdom in the east called Oyo seized the kingdom of Dahomey and forced it to pay tribute for more than a hundred years. In the mid-19th century, the Oyo was overthrown and Dahomey re-established its dominance. Around this time, trade relations were established with the French.

In the late 19th century, a series of wars were waged between the kingdoms in the south. In the turmoil, the French took the opportunity to seize the territories and colonize the area.

The French takeover and colonisation came in 1872. In 1904, the territory was incorporated into French West Africa as Dahomey. On 4 December 1958, it became the République du Dahomey, self-governing within the French community and gained full independence from France on 1 August 1960.

Benin was the first country in the 1990s to successfully effect the transition from dictatorship to a pluralistic political system. Today, Benin is held in high regard in the international community and its model democracy has been widely acclaimed.