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Dahomey and the Slave Trade: Reflections on the Historiography of the Rise of Dahomey

  • Robin Law (a1)

The rise of the kingdom of Dahomey coincided with the growth of the slave trade in the area, and consequently has often served as a case study of the impact of the slave trade upon African societies. The article reviews the historiography of the rise of Dahomey, in an attempt to clarify the relationship between the nature of the Dahomian state and its participation in the slave trade. It considers, and refutes, the view that the rulers of Dahomey had originally intended to bring the slave trade to an end. It examines the militaristic character of the Dahomian state, and suggests that this is best understood as a consequence of increased warfare stimulated by the overseas market for war captives. Finally, it examines and partially endorses those views which have presented the political centralization of Dahomey as a constructive response to the problems of order posed by slave-raiding.

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1 I.e. that part of the coast between the River Volta and the Lagos channel.

2 Dalzel Archibald, The History of Dahomy, an Inland Kingdom of Africa (London, 1793; reprinted, with a new introduction by J. D. Fage, 1967).

3 Herissé A. Le, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey (Paris, 1911);Herskovits Melville J., Dahomey, an Ancient West African Kingdom (2 vols, New York, 1938).

4 Polanyi Karl, with Rotstein Abraham, Dahomey and the Slave Trade: An Analysis of an Archaic Economy (Seattle, 1966).

5 Both papers have since been published: Kilkenny Roberta Walker, ‘The slave mode of production: precolonial Dahomey’, in Crummey Donald & Stewart C. C., eds, Modes of production in Africa : The Precolonial Era (London, 1981), 157–73;Moseley K. P., ‘The political economy of Dahomey’, Research in Economic Anthropology, 11 (1979), 6990. For other Marxist attempts to identify ‘modes of production’ in Dahomey, cf. Aguessy Honorat, ‘Le Dan-Home du XIXe siècle: était il une société esclavagiste?’, Revue Française d'Etudes Politiques Africaines, L (1970), 7191;Elwert Georg, Wirtschaft und Herrschaft von ‘Daxome’ (Dahomey) im 18 Jahrhundert: Ökonomie des Sklavenraubs und Gesellschaftsstruktur 1724 bis 1818 (München, 1973).

6 Akinjogbin I. A., Dahomey and its Neighbours 1708–1818 (Cambridge, 1967).

7 Important archival material not utilized in Akinjogbin's work includes Dutch records, the potential value of which may be gauged from the published collection by Van Dantzig Albert, ed., The Dutch and the Guinea Coast 1674–1742 : A Collection of Documents from the General State Archive at The Hague (Accra, 1978), and the Letter Book of the Royal African Company covering the period 1681–99 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (MS Rawlinson, C. 745–7), the Slave Coast material in which is summarized by Van Dantzig Albert, ‘Some late seventeenth century British views on the Slave Coast’, in Actes du Colloque International sur les Civilisations Aja-Ewe (Cotonou 1–5 Décembre 1977) (Université Nationale du Benin, Cotonou, n.d.), 85104. Another invaluable and neglected source for the early Slave Coast is an anonymous and undated (but clearly 1710s) manuscript description of the kingdom of Whydah: ‘Relation du Royaume de Judas en Guinée, de son Gouvernement, des Moeurs de ses habitans, de leur Religion, et du Négoce qui s'y fait’ (Archives Nationales, Section Outre-Mer, Paris: Dépôt des Fortifications des Colonies, Côtes d'Afrique, MS 104).

8 The writer is currently engaged in research on the history of the Slave Coast in the period 1500–1740, and acknowledges with gratitude financial support received from the Nuffield Foundation, the British Academy, and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

9 ‘Relat´orio de Jácome Leite a el-Rei’, 8 Aug. 1553, in António Brásio (ed.), Monumenta Missionária Africana : Africa Ocidental (several vols, Lisbon, 1952–), 11, 292.

10 Slaves called ‘Arara’, which seems to be a name associated with the Slave Coast area, are documented in Peru from the 1560s onwards: Bowser Frederick P., The African Slave in Colonial Peru 1524–1650 (Stanford, 1974), 40–3. For the application of the name ‘Arara’, cf. also Beltran Gonzalo Aguirre, La Población Negra de México: Estúdio etnohistórico (2nd ed.Mexico City, 1972), 132–3.

11 Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 11, suggests that Allada was founded only in c. 1575. However, Allada is already referred to (as ‘Arida’) in a report from Benin, to the east, in 1539: ‘Carta dos Missionáries do Benim a D.João III’, 30 Aug. 1539, in Brásio, Monumenta Missionaria, II, 82. Allada is marked on Portuguese maps (as ‘Arida’ or ‘Arda’) from 1570 onwards: Armando Cortesão and Avelino Teixeira da Mota (eds), Portugaliae Monumenta Cartographica (5 vols, Lisbon, i960), ill, pi. 266 (map of Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1570), and iv, pi. 407 (anonymous map, attributed to Sebastião Lopes, c. 1570).

12 De Marees Pieter, Beschryvinghe ende Historische Verhael van Het Gout Koninckrijck van Gunea (originally published 1602; ed. Naber S. P. L'Honore, The Hague 1912), 230–1. Other goods purchased by Europeans at Allada during the seventeenth century included cotton cloth and stone beads (both bought for re-sale on the Gold Coast) and ivory.

13 ‘Relação de Garcia Mendes Castello Branco’, 1620, in Brásio, Monumenta Missionaria, vi, 470.

14 The earliest evidence of significant Dutch trade at Allada seems to be a Portuguese complaint of 1636: ‘Consultado Conselhode Estado’, 16 Jan. 1636, in Brásio, Monumenta Missionaria, vin, 348.

15 van den Boogaart Ernst and Emmer Pieter C., ‘The Dutch participation in the Atlantic slave trade, 1596–1650’, in Gemery Henry A. and Hogendorn Jan S., eds, The Uncommon Market: Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade (New York, 1975), 360, give a total of 4, 828 slaves purchased at Allada during 1637–45.

16 Public Record Office, London (hereafter, PRO), CO. 1/17, letter of Capt Stewart, Ardra, 18 Sept. 1663, in ‘ Extract of letters from Cormantine and other places in Affrica’. Either then or soon after an English factory was established in Allada: cf. ibid. CO. 1/19, ‘A Breife Narrative of the Trade & Present Condition of the Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading into Africa’, 1665.

17 The first recorded French contact with Allada seems to have been in 1666: Ly Abdoulaye, La Compagnie du Sénégal (Dakar, 1958), 94–5. A French factory was established in Allada in 1670: ‘Journal du Voyage du Sieur Delbée’, in J. de Clodoré, ed., Relation de ce qui s'est passé dans les Isles et Terre Ferme de l'Amérique, pendant la dernière guerre avec l'Angleterre et depuis en exécution du Traitté de Breda (Paris, 1671), 11, 347–473.

18 Barbot Jean, ‘Description des Côtes d'Affrique1 (MS of 1688, in PRO, ADM. 7/830), IIIe Partie, 133–4.

19 Van Dantzig, ‘Some late seventeenth century British views’, 86–8.

20 Van Dantzig Albert, Les Hollandais sur la Côte de Guinée à l'époque de l'essor de l'Ashanti et du Dahomey 1680–1740 (Paris, 1980), 74. The Dutch factory at Allada had been destroyed in a local war in 1692.

21 Cf. Bosman William, A New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea (London, 1705; reprinted 1967), 343.

22 Bodleian Library: Rawlinson, C. 745, letter of John Thorne, Ophra (the port of Allada), 4 Dec. 1681.

23 See the statistics of ships going from Brazil to the ‘Costa da Mina’ (roughly equivalent to the Slave Coast), in Pierre Verger, Flux et reflux de la traite des nègres entre le Golfe de Bénin et Bahia de Todos os Santos du XVIIe au XIXe siècle (Paris, 1968), 652–4.

24 Material on Brandenburg trade with the Slave Coast can be found in Jones Adam, ed., Brandenburg Sourcesfor West African History 1680–1700 (Wiesbaden, 1985, esp. 1820, 164–5, 189–96); for Danish trade on the Slave Coast, see Nørregård Georg, Danish Settlements in West Africa 1658–1850 (Boston, 1966), esp. 65–8, 95.

25 ‘Journal du Voyage du Sieur Delbée’, 436–7; corroborated by ‘Short Memoir on Trade within the present limits of the Charter of the West Indian Company’, 1670, in Van Dantzig, The Dutch and the Guinea Coast, II.

26 ‘Relation du Voyage fait en Guynée en 1687 sur la Frégate “La Tempeste” parle Sieur Du Casse’, in Paul Roussier (ed.), L'Établissment d'Issiny 1687–1702: Voyages de Ducasse, Tibierge et D'Amon a la Cote de Guinee (Paris, 1935), 14–15.

27 Cf. the calculations of Patrick Manning, ‘The slave trade in the Bight of Benin’, in Gemery and Hogendorn, The Uncommon Market, 117, which would reduce exports from the Slave Coast to 1,700 annually on average in the 1660s and 5,500 in the 1680s.

28 Bosman, New and Accurate Description, 343, 362a.

29 Snelgrave William, A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea and the Slave Trade (London, 1734; reprinted 1971), 2.

30 Cf. Manning, ‘The Slave Trade in the Bight of Benin’, 117.

31 The first published appearance of this name seems to be in Bosman, New and Accurate Description, originally published in Dutch in 1704.

32 See the illustrative calculations of Manning Patrick, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth in Dahomey, 1640–1960 (Cambridge, 1982), 32–4, 340–3.

33 Bean Richard Nelson, The British Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade 1650–1775 (New York, 1975), 139–47. In terms of the local cowry shell currency, slave prices rose from 72 lb of cowries per slave at Allada in 1681 to 300 lb at Whydah in 1724; PRO, T. 70/20, Invoice of Goods most in demand at Arda Factory, 15 Jan. 1680/1; T. 70/7, Abstract of letter of Tinker and Humfreys, Whydah, 26 Aug. 1724.

34 Norris Robert, Memoirs of the Reign of Bossa Ahadee, King of Dahomy (London, 1789; reprinted 1968), 62.

35 Cf. Manning, ‘The slave trade in the Bight of Benin’, 117, 122.

36 The earliest recording of the claimed traditional link with Allada appears to be that by SirBurton Richard , A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome (originally published 1864; ed. Newbury C. W., London, 1966), 106–7.

37 Norris, Memoirs of the Reign of Bossa Ahadee, xvi, estimated the date as c. 1625, and has generally been followed by more recent writers. Agaja, king of Dahomey in the 1720s, was only the fourth ruler.

38 The earliest reference so far noted is a mention of ‘Fumce Lant’ in a Dutch document of 1680, cited by Kea Ray A., Settlements, Trade and Polities in the Seventeenth-Century Gold Coast (Baltimore, 1982), 401, n. 168. The earliest record of the name Dahomey is in French documents of 1716, cited below, n. 39.

39 Archives Nationales, Paris (hereafter, AN), B. 1/9, f. 125, letter of Bouchel, Juda (i.e. Whydah), 30 Jan, 1716; B. 1/19, f. 2v, idem 22 June 1716.

40 AN, C. 6/25, item 128, letter of Delisle, Dahomey, 7 Sept. 1728.

41 Letter of Bulfinch Lamb to Tinker, 27 Nov. 1724, in William Smith, A New Voyage to Guinea (London, 1744; reprinted 1967), 171–89.

42 Snelgrave, New Account of Some Parts of Guinea; Norris, Memoirs of the Reign of Bossa Ahadee; Dalzel, History of Dahomey.

43 For Dalzel's sources, see esp. the History, vi–vii.

44 ibid. In the case of Abson, at least, this claim of fluency in Fon is corroborated by another witness: Adams John, Remarks on the Country extending from Cape Palmas to the River Congo (London, 1823), 52. Abson resided at Whydah for over 30 years, dying there eventually in 1803.

45 For Dalzel's slaving interests and polemical purposes, see Akinjogbin I. A., ‘Archibald Dalzel: slave trader and historian of DahomeyJ. Afr. Hist, vii (1966), 6778;Waldman Loren K., ‘An unnoticed aspect of Archibald Dalzel's The History of Dahomey [sic]’, J. Afr. Hist., vi (1965), 185–92; J. D. Fage, Introduction to the 1967 Reprint of Dalzel's History; Rawley James A., ‘Further light on Archibald Dalzel’, Int. J. Afr. Hist. Stud. XVII, ii (1984), 317–23.

46 Snelgrave, New Account, 5–6.

47 ibid. 20–1.

48 Letter of Francisco Pereyra Mendes to Viceroy of Brazil, 4 April 1727, from Archivo Publico, Bahia, 21, doc. 58, quoted by Verger, Flux et reflux de la traite des negres, 145.

49 Lamb, in Smith, New Voyage, 174.

50 Atkins John, A Voyage to Guinea, Brasil and the West Indies (London, 1735; reprinted 1970), 119–22.

51 ibid. 122.

52 Snelgrave, New Account, 71. For the impact of this spurious prince on London society, cf. The Gentleman's Magazine, 1 (1731), 216, 401, 542.

53 Journal of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, from Jan. 1728/g to Dec. 1734 (PRO, London, 1928), 198–203, 215–16; Snelgrave, New Account, 70–1; cf. Johnson Marion, ’Bulfinch Lambe and the Emperor of Pawpaw: a footnote to Agaja and the Slave Trade’, History in Africa, v (1978), 345–50.

54 The Company's Agent-General at Cape Coast Castle supplied indigo seeds to the Whydah factory in 1705, but was advised by the local agent there that ‘the indigo plantation will not turn to account’: PRO, T. 70/5, abstracts of letters of Sir Dalby Thomas to Richard Willis, 5 Sept. 1705, and of Willis to Thomas, 30 Oct. 1705. There was again some interest in indigo cultivation at Whydah in 1722: T. 70/7, abstract of letter of Baldwyn and Peck, Whydah, 25 Jan. 1721/2.

55 I owe this interpretation to John Reid. Snelgrave, New Account, 106–7, states of the king's slaves that’ after they are once inrolled for that Service, his Majesty never sells them, unless they are guilty of very great Crimes’. Later accounts suggest that it was only slaves actually born within Dahomey who were inalienable; Le Herisse, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 56; Herskovits, Dahomey, I, 101.

56 Journal of the Commissioners for Trade, 201. It is therefore incorrect to suggest that Snelgrave's account of Agaja's motives in his book of 1734 was intended to discredit Lamb's message of 1731, as is done by Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 74.

57 Norris, Memoirs, xii.

58 Snelgrave, New Account, 130, 147, 156. For similar complaints by Portuguese officials in 1729–30, cf. Verger, Flux et reflux de la traite des negres, 148–50.

59 Dalzel, History, 26–7.

60 Norris, Memoirs, 147.

61 Basil Davidson, Black Mother: Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade (2nd ed. reprinted, Harmondsworth, 1980), 240–1; Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 73–81. The gist of Akinjogbin's argument had also been published in an earlier article, ‘Agaja and the Conquest of the Coastal Aja States’, J. Hist. Soc. Nigeria, 11, iv (1963), 545–66.

62 Davidson, Black Mother, 241; Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 23–4.

63 Although Akinjogbin, like Dalzel, notes the diversion of trade away from Whydah, he places more emphasis on Dahomey's lack of military success in the second half of the eighteenth century, which left it unable to guarantee adequate supplies of war captives for sale; ibid. 131–2, 147–8, 155–6, 180–1, 209.

64 Cf. Le Herisse, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 291.

65 ‘Relation du Voyage fait en Guynée…par le Sieur Du Casse’, in Roussier, L'établissement d'Issiny, 15; Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 24.

66 Henige David and Johnson Marion, ‘Agaja and the Slave Trade: another look at the evidence’, History in Africa, III (1976), 5767;Ross David, ‘The anti-slave trade theme in Dahoman history: an examination of the evidence’, History in Africa, ix (1982), 263–71.

67 Labat Jean-Baptiste, Voyage du Chevalier des Marchais en Guinée, Isles voisines, et á Cayenne (4 vols, Paris, 1730), I, xi.

68 Snelgrave, New Account, 77–9. The presence of young boys in the Dahomian army in 1727 is also reported by Smith, New Voyage, 192.

69 See esp. de Pommegorge Pruneau, Description de la Nigritie (Amsterdam, 1789), 164.

70 Cf. Dalzel, History, x.

71 ibid. 26.

72 For eighteenth-century accounts of the ‘Amazons’, see e.g. Snelgrave, New Account, 126; Pruneau de Pommegorge, Description de la Nigritie, 181; Norris, Memoirs, 94, 108–9; Dalzel, History, xi, 176.

73 Lamb, in Smith, New Voyage, 173, 186.

74 AN, C. 6/25, item 128, letter of Delisle, Dahomey, 7 Sept. 1728.

75 Snelgrave, New Account, 31, 48–9.

76 Norris, Memoirs, esp. 86–111; Dalzel, History, esp. 204–5, 224–6, 229–30.

77 Snelgrave, New Account, 41–2, 51–3. Norris concedes that the Dahomians were not ‘ Anthropophagists, in the full sense of that word’, and is more concerned to demonstrate that cannibalism did nevertheless exist elsewhere in Africa: Memoirs, x.

78 Norris, Memoirs, 91.

79 Dalzel, History, vii.

80 Norris, Memoirs, 86; repeated in Dalzel, History, 121.

81 Norris, Memoirs, 49; Dalzel, History, 97, 175.

82 Norris, Memoirs, 88–9; repeated in Dalzel, History, 122–3.

83 Snelgrave, New Account, 158, 160–1 .

84 Norris, Memoirs, 160; Dalzel, History, esp. 22–6, 216–21; Baudry Deslozieres, Les egarements du negrophilisme (Paris, 1802), quoted in William B. Cohen, The French Encounter with Africans : White. Responses to Blacks 1530–1880 (Bloomington, 1980), 183.

85 Burton, Mission to Gelele, 344.

86 Norris, Memoirs, 173.

87 See further Law Robin, ‘Human sacrifice in pre-colonial West Africa’, African Affairs, LXXXIV, 334 (1985), 67–9.

88 It may be noted that on the Slave Coast (as elsewhere in Africa) Europeans also were suspected of being cannibals: Barbot, ‘Description des Cotes d'Affrique’, I lie Partie, 136; Bosman, New and Accurate Description, 365.

89 Cf. Argyle W. J., The Fon of Dahomey: A History and Ethnography of the Old Kingdom (Oxford, 1966),

90. 60 Cf. Le Herisse, L'Ancien Royaume du Dahomey, 84–6.

91 See esp. Pruneau de Pommegorge, Description de la Nigritie, 164–5.

92 Le Herisse, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 55, 243.

93 The Dahomian conception of royal authority, however, stresses rather the concept of the purchase of land rights, which seems to have its origin in the fact that the founders of Dahomey, being immigrants, had originally secured land by making payments to the local authorities, before confirming their position by conquest, ibid. 244, 281.

94 Cf. Law, ‘Human sacrifice’, 73–5. Also the illuminating analysis of the ‘Annual Customs’ by Coquery-Vidrovitch Catherine, ‘La fête des coutumes au Dahomey: historique et essai d'interprétation’, Annales: E.S.C., xix (1964), 696716.

95 See further, Hargreaves Susan, ‘An ideological interpretation of Dahomian politics 1818–1864’ (M.A. dissertation, Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, 1978).

96 Forbes Frederick E., Dahomey and the Dahomans (2 vols, London, 1851; reprinted 1966); Burton, Mission to Gelele; cf. also Skertchly J. A., Dahomey As It Is (London, 1874). For a very useful analysis of the picture of Dahomey presented in these works, see David Ross, ‘Mid-nineteenth century Dahomey: recent views vs. contemporary evidence’, History in Africa, XII (1985), 307–23.

97 Foa Edouard, Le Dahomey (Paris, 1895), esp. 263, 313.

98 Forbes, Dahomey, I, 7; Le Herisse, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 315.

99 Law, ‘Human sacrifice’, 69; Le Herisse, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 58, 67.

100 paruamentary Papers, 1852 (1455), vol. LIV: Papers Relative to the Reduction of Lagos, item 13, inclosure 3, Journal of Lieutenant Forbes, on his Mission to Dahomey, entry for 4 July 1850; cf. Forbes, Dahomey, 11, 187–8.

101 See esp Forbes, Dahomey, 1, 82–3; 11, 17; Burton, Mission to Gelele, 159.

102 Dalzel, History, ix.

103 AN, C. 6/25, Pruneau and Guestard, ‘Mémoire pour servir à l'intelligence du commerce de Juda’, 18 March 1756.

104 Pruneau de Pommegorge, Description de la Nigritie, 153.

105 Snelgrave, New Account, 7.

106 ibid. 37–8.

107 ibid. 128. One of the ‘bandits’ recruited on this occasion was probably Ashangmo, chief of Little Popo (on the western Slave Coast), who is said to have served for a time in the Dahomian army before defecting back to Little Popo in 1737: cf. Norris, Memoirs, 5o;C. C. Reindorf, History of the GoldCoastand Asante (2nd ed. reprinted, Accra, 1966), 37.

108 Atkins, Voyage to Guinea, 122–32.

109 ibid. 172.

110 Smith, New Voyage, 266. Smith had visited Whydah in 1727, and is assumed by Akinjogbin. Dahomey, 18–19, t 0 De referring here to the Slave Coast; but this passage occurs in a section of Smith's work which he presents (cf. New Voyage, 243) as reporting the impressions of another trader, Charles Wheeler, who served not at Whydah but (as shown by the personnel registers in PRO, T. 70/1446–7) on the Gold Coast.

111 Benezet Anthony, Some Historical Account of Guinea (2nd ed., London, 1788; reprinted 1968), 51–2.

112 Forbes, Dahomey, i, iv, 139. Cf. also the analysis of Dahomian history by Wilson J. Leighton, Western Africa : its History, Condition and Prospects (New York, 1856), 204–5.

113 Norris, Memoirs, 173. The citation of Leo (i.e. Africanus) here seems somewhat disingenuous, since the societies he was describing (in the interior of West Africa in the sixteenth century), although not trading with the Europeans, were certainly involved in the trans-Saharan slave trade.

114 Dalzel, History, 27.

115 ibid. 218–19. Wegbaja is regarded in recent tradition as the second ruler of Dahomey, but Norris and Dalzel make him the third.

116 ibid. 25.

117 Norris, Memoirs, 137. The origins of this interpretation can be traced in earlier sources: the contrast between the cowardly coastal peoples and more warlike and brutal nations in the interior goes back to Bosman, New and Accurate Description, 395–8; the explanation that the coastal peoples (or at least those of Whydah) had been rendered effeminate by trade is found already in Snelgrave, New Account, 3–4.

118 Du Bois W. E. B., The Negro (London, 1915), 67–8, 154; cf. also idem, The World and Africa (first published 1946; reprinted New York, 1965), 77, 162.

119 Davidson, Black Mother, 242–5.

120 There is a clear echo of Dalzel, e.g. in Polanyi, Dahomey and the Slave Trade, 35.

121 Fage J. D., ‘Slavery and the Slave Trade in the context of West African history’, J. Afr. Hist, x (1969), 401–2;Ronen Dov, ‘On the African role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade in Dahomey’, Cah. d'Et. Afr. xi (1971), 910.

122 For the wars of the 1690s, see esp. Bosman, New and Accurate Description, 329–30, 332–3, 335–6, 396–8.

123 Ibid, 362a, 395–6.

124 Letter of Van Hoolwerff to Directors of the Chamber of Amsterdam, 10 Feb. 1688, in Van Dantzig, The Dutch and the Guinea Coast, 31.

125 Norris, Memoirs, 137; Dalzel, History, 6.

126 In 1727 the king paid (in cowries) £ 1 for each adult male captive, 10s. each for women and children, and 5s. for heads: Snelgrave, New Account, 38.

127 Dalzel, History, xii. But in 1727 the price of a slave at the coast was £15 (Bean, The British Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, 147): since the king paid only £1 for each captive (cf. above, n. 126) he would need to export only a very small proportion of the captives taken to cover his costs.

128 Snelgrave, New Account, 37, 39, Of over 1, 800 captives on this occasion the king sacrificed 400 and presented 200 to his chiefs, but it is not stated how many were sold rather than kept for the king's own use; ibid. 36, 39, 40.

129 Cf. Le Herisse, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 90.

130 Snelgrave, New Account, 106.

131 ‘Relation du Royaume de Judas’, 78–9; Labat, Voyage du Chevalier des Marchais, 11, 98–100.

132 Cf. Kea R. A., ‘Firearms and warfare on the Gold and Slave Coasts from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries’, J. Afr. Hist, xii (1971), 192–4, 212.

133 Ofori was unable to press his attack against Whydah because of a failure of supplies of gunpowder; Bosman, New and Accurate Description, 332.

134 Recent tradition claims that Wegbaja was the first Dahomian king to use firearms, obtained through Whydah: Le Herisse, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 60, 84. In the eighteenth century, however, Wegbaja was remembered as a king who still used the bow, firearms being not yet known: Dalzel, History, 219.

135 Snelgrave, New Account, 27, 32, 56, 77–8.

136 Dalzel, History, 7–8, 26.

137 Ibid, 166, 207.

138 Wrigley Christopher, ‘Historicism in Africa’, African Affairs, LXX, 279 (1971), 114–15.

139 Peukert Werner, Der Atlantische Sklavenhandel von Dahomey 1750-1797 (Wiesbaden, 1978); for an assessment of this important work, cf. Johnson Marion, ‘Polanyi, Peukert and the political economy of Dahomey’, J. Afr. Hist, xxi (1980), 395–8.

140 Manning, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth, 44. 9–2

141 Lamb, in Smith, New Voyage, 173.

142 At Allada in the mid-seventeenth century normally a third of the value of imports was in cowries: Dapper Olfert, Naukeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaemche Geivesten (Amsterdam, 1668), 491. By the 1680s the proportion had risen to a half: PRO, T. 70/20, Invoice of goods most in demand at Ardra Factory, 15 Jan. 1680/1; ibid, abstract of letter of William Cross, Ophra, 13 June 1681; cf. Barbot, ‘Description des Cotes d'Affrique’, I He Partie, 142–3. At Whydah in 1694 the proportion was two-fifths: Thomas Phillips, ‘A journal of a voyage made in the Hannibal of London’, in Churchill Awnsham and Churchill John, eds, Collection of Voyages and Travels (London, 1732), vi, 227.

143 The suggestion of Manning, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth, 24, that a monetized exchange economy, employing some other form of currency, pre-dated the introduction of cowry shells by the Europeans, seems highly improbable.

144 Forbes, Dahomey, 1, 19.

145 Burton, Mission to Gelele, 260, 264 n. 25.

146 Ellis A. B., The Ezue-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa (London, 1890), 197–8.

147 Norris, Memoirs, 2; for the case of the Whydah snake-cult, cf. ibid. 105 n. Some discussion of the manipulation of local religious cults by the Dahomian monarchy can be found in Mercier P., ‘The Fon of Dahomey’, in Forde Daryll (ed.), African Worlds: Studies in the Cosmological Ideas and Social Values of African Peoples (London, 1954), 210–34.

148 Norris, Memoirs, 90–1.

149 Dalzel, History, xiii.

150 Parliamentary Papers, 1849 (399), vol. xxxiv, Missions to the King of Ashantee and Dahomey, item 2, inclosure, Report by B. Cruickshank, Esq., of his Mission to the King of Dahomey, 9 Nov. 1848.

151 Le Herissé, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey; Herskovits, Dahomey. For a more recent work reproducing this picture of a high degree of effective centralization, cf. Lombard Jacques, ‘The Kingdom of Dahomey’, in Forde Daryll and Kaberry P. M., eds, West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1967), 7092.

152 Argyle, The Fon of Dahomey.

153 Davidson, Black Mother, 244–5.

154 Polanyi, Dahomey and the Slave Trade; Akinjogbin, Dahomey and its Neighbours. Polanyi's work is in fact an elaboration of an analysis originally offered a few years earlier by his associate Arnold Rosemary, ‘A port of trade: Whydah on the Guinea coast’ and ‘Separation of trade and market: great market of Whydah’, in Polanyi Karl, Arensberg Conrad M. and Pearson Harry W., eds., Trade and Market in the Early Empires: Economies in History and Theory (New York, 1957), 154–76, 177–87.

155 The phrase is actually Arnold's: ‘Port of trade’, 155.

156 Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 25; cf. 203.

157 For criticisms of Polanyi, see e.g. Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, ‘De la traite des esclaves à l'exportation de l'huile de palme et des palmistes au Dahomey: XIXe siècle’, in Meillassoux Claude, ed., The Development of Indigenous Trade and Markets in West Africa (London, 1971), esp. 107–14; Peukert, Der Atlantische Sklavenhandel, esp. chapter 20; Moseley, ‘Political economy of Dahomey’, esp. 73–6; Manning, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth, esp. 41–2. On Akinjogbin, see Law Robin, ‘The fall of Allada, 1724 – an ideological revolution?’, J. Hist. Soc. Nigeria, v, i (1969), 157–63; Ross David, ‘European models and West African history: further comments on the recent historiography of Dahomey’, History in Africa, x (1983), 293305.

158 See further Law Robin, ‘Royal monopoly and private enterprise in the Atlantic trade: the case of Dahomey’, J. Afr. Hist., xviii (1977), 555–77.

159 Akinjogbin repeats, for example, the misleading statement that titles in Dahomey were not hereditary: Dahomey, 38, 100.

160 Forbes, Dahomey, 11, 173–4.

161 Law, ‘Fall of Allada’, 162; Jacques Lombard, ‘Contribution à l'histoire d'une ancienne société politique du Dahomey: la royauté d'Allada’, Bull. I.F.A.N, xxix, i–ii (1967), 57, The Allada installation ceremony is mentioned by Dalzel, History, 227 n.

162 Law, ‘Royal monopoly’, 556–61.

163 Newbury C. W., The Western Slave Coast and its Rulers (Oxford, 1961), 13; Argyle, The Fon of Dahomey, 56–8.

164 For royal succession at Allada, see Dapper, Naukeurige Beschrijvinge, 493; AN, C. 6/25, item 33, letter of Bouchel, Xavier (i.e. Savi, capital of Whydah), 26 June 1717. For Whydah, see N****, Voyages aux Côtes de Guinée et en Amérique (Amsterdam, 1719), 41–2; Bosman, New Account, 366.

165 For royal inheritance rights at Allada, see Dapper, Naukeurige Beschrijvinge, 493; for Whydah, see Phillips, ‘Journal of a voyage’, 219. The seizure of girls for the royal harem is reported in Whydah: Bosman, New and Accurate Description, 345.

166 Cf. Argyle, The Fon of Dahomey, esp. 56, 73, 102, 173.

167 Cf. Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 64 n. 3, 100–1.

168 Le Herissé, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 290.

169 Barbot, ‘Description des Côtes d'Affrique’, IIIe Partie, 136.

170 Forbes, Dahomey, 11, 88; Le Herissé, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 51.

171 Cf. Law, ‘Human sacrifice’, 67.

172 For these traditions, see esp. Le Herissé, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 276–89. Versions of these traditions current in the eighteenth century evidently differed in detail from those told recently, but presented the same picture of aggression: cf. Norris, Memoirs, xiii-xiv.

173 Snelgrave, New Account, 129.

174 Though Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 89, suggests that the move was prompted rather by considerations of military security. The capital was moved back to Abomey in 1744.

175 AN, C. 6/25, letter of Levesque, Juda, 20 Nov. 1733 (lettre de nouvelles); B. 3/363, letter of Dionis to Ministre de Marine, 10 Aug. 1734. Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 98, lays little stress on this episode.

176 Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 110.

177 Le Herissé, L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, 56, 245, 291; already attested (in connection with slaves on the royal estates) by Snelgrave, New Account, 107.

178 Cf. Rodney Walter, ‘Gold and Slaves on the Gold Coast’, Trans, Hist. Soc. Ghana, x (1969), 24–6.

179 ‘Relation du Royaume de Judas’, 86.

180 For the collapse of royal authority and civil wars in Whydah in c. 1710–27, cf. Akinjogbin, Dahomey, 41–2, 50–3, 72–3.

181 Manning, Slavery, Colonialism and Economic Growth, 42.

* Earlier versions of this paper were read at seminars at the University of Stirling in 1984 and at the Centre of West African Studies of the University of Birmingham in 1985. The writer's thanks are due to those who participated in discussion on those occasions, and also to Robert Smith and John Reid, who generously supplied relevant material and ideas.

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