Abomey is a city in the Zou Department of Benin. Abomey is the former capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey, which would become a French colony the Republic of Dahomey, is the modern-day Republic of Benin. Abomey houses the Royal Palaces of Abomey, a collection of small traditional houses that were inhabited by the Kings of Dahomey from 1600 to 1900, which were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985; the commune of Abomey covers an area of 142 square kilometres and as of 2012 had a population of 90,195 people. The Royal Palaces of Abomey are a group of earthen structures built by the Fon people between the mid-17th and late 19th Centuries. One of the most famous and significant traditional sites in West Africa, the palaces form one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the town was surrounded by a mud wall with a circumference estimated at 10 kilometres, pierced by six gates, protected by a ditch five feet deep, filled with a dense growth of prickly acacia, the usual defence of West African strongholds.
Within the walls were villages separated by fields, several royal palaces, a market-place and a large square containing the barracks. In November 1892, Béhanzin, the last independent reigning king of Dahomey, being defeated by French colonial forces, set fire to Abomey and fled northward; the French colonial administration connected it with the coast by a railroad. When UNESCO designated the royal palaces of Abomey as a World Heritage Site in 1985 it stated From 1625 to 1900 twelve kings succeeded one another at the head of the powerful Kingdom of Abomey. With the exception of King Akaba, who used a separate enclosure, they each had their palaces built within the same cob-wall area, in keeping with previous palaces as regards the use of space and materials; the royal palaces of Abomey are a unique reminder of this vanished kingdom. From 1993, 50 of the 56 bas-reliefs that decorated the walls of King Glèlè have been located and replaced on the rebuilt structure; the bas-reliefs carry an iconographic program expressing the power of the Fon people.
Today, the city is of less importance, but is still popular with tourists and as a centre for crafts. As reported by UNESCO, the Royal Palaces of Abomey suffered from a fire on 21 January 2009 "which destroyed several buildings." The fire was the most recent disaster which has plagued the site, coming after a powerful tornado damaged the site in 1984. The city is twinned with France. UNESCO assessment of threats to the site, after tornado damage in 1984. Historical Museum of Abomey
French West Africa
French West Africa was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, French Sudan, French Guinea, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta and Niger. The capital of the federation was Dakar; the federation existed from 1895 until 1960. Until after the Second World War none of the Africans living in the colonies of France were citizens of France. Rather, they were "French subjects", lacking rights before the law, property ownership rights, rights to travel, dissent, or vote; the exception was the Four Communes of Senegal: those areas had been towns of the tiny Senegal Colony in 1848 when, at the abolition of slavery by the French Second Republic, all residents of France were granted equal political rights. Anyone able to prove they were born in these towns was French, they could vote in parliamentary elections, dominated by white and Métis residents of Senegal. The Four Communes of Senegal were entitled to elect a deputy to represent them in the French parliament in 1848–1852, 1871–1876, 1879–1940.
In 1914, the first African, Blaise Diagne, was elected as the deputy for Senegal in the French Parliament. In 1916, Diagne pushed a law through the National Assembly granting full citizenship to all residents of the so-called Four Communes. In return, he promised to help recruit millions of Africans to fight in World War I. Thereafter, all black Africans of Dakar, Gorée, Saint-Louis, Rufisque could vote to send a representative to the French National Assembly; as the French pursued their part in the scramble for Africa in the 1880s and 1890s, they conquered large inland areas, at first ruled them as either a part of the Senegal colony or as independent entities. These conquered areas were governed by French Army officers, dubbed "military territories". In the late 1890s, the French government began to rein in the territorial expansion of its "officers on the ground", transferred all the territories west of Gabon to a single governor based in Senegal, reporting directly to the Minister of Overseas Affairs.
The first governor-general of Senegal was named in 1895, in 1904, the territories he oversaw were formally named French West Africa. Gabon would become the seat of its own federation French Equatorial Africa, to border its western neighbor on the modern boundary between Niger and Chad. After the Fall of France in June 1940 and the two battles of Dakar against the Free French Forces in July and September 1940, authorities in West Africa declared allegiance to the Vichy regime, as did the colony of French Gabon in AEF. Gabon fell to Free France after the Battle of Gabon in November 1940, but West Africa remained under Vichy control until the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942. Following World War II, the French government began a process of extending limited political rights in its colonies. In 1945 the French Provisional Government allocated ten seats to French West Africa in the new Constituent Assembly called to write a new French Constitution. Of these five would be elected by five by African subjects.
The elections brought to prominence a new generation of French-educated Africans. On 21 October 1945 six Africans were elected, the Four Communes citizens chose Lamine Guèye, Senegal/Mauritania Léopold Sédar Senghor, Ivory Coast/Upper Volta Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Dahomey/Togo Sourou-Migan Apithy, Soudan-Niger Fily Dabo Sissoko, Guinea Yacine Diallo, they were all re-elected to the 2nd Constituent Assembly on 2 June 1946. In 1946, the Loi Lamine Guèye granted some limited citizenship rights to natives of the African colonies; the French Empire was renamed the French Union on 27 October 1946, when the new constitution of the French Fourth Republic was established. In late 1946 under this new constitution, each territory was for the first time able elect local representatives, albeit on a limited franchise, to newly established General Councils; these elected bodies had only limited consultative powers. The Loi Cadre of 23 June 1956 brought universal suffrage to elections held after that date in all French African colonies.
The first elections under universal suffrage in French West Africa were the municipal elections of late 1956. On 31 March 1957, under universal suffrage, territorial Assembly elections were held in each of the eight colonies; the leaders of the winning parties were appointed to the newly instituted positions of Vice-Presidents of the respective Governing Councils — French Colonial Governors remained as Presidents. The Constitution of the French Fifth Republic of 1958 again changed the structure of the colonies from the French Union to the French Community; each territory was to become a "Protectorate", with the consultative assembly named a National Assembly. The Governor appointed by the French was renamed the "High Commissioner", made head of state of each territory; the Assembly would name an African as Head of Government with advisory powers to the Head of State. The federation ceased to exist after the September 1958 referendum to approve this French Community. All the colonies except Guinea voted to remain in the new structure.
Guineans voted overwhelmingly for independence. In 1960, a further revision of the French constitution, compelled by the failure of the French Indochina War and the tensions in Algeria, allowed members of the French Community to unilaterally change their own constitutions. Senegal and former French Sudan became the Mali Federation, while
West African Vodun
Vodun is practiced by the Fon people of Benin, southern and central Togo. It is distinct from the various traditional African religions in the interiors of these countries and is the main source of religions with similar names found among the African diaspora in the Americas, such as Haitian Vodou. Vodun cosmology centers around the vodun spirits and other elements of divine essence that govern the Earth, a hierarchy that range in power from major deities governing the forces of nature and human society to the spirits of individual streams and rocks, as well as dozens of ethnic vodun, defenders of a certain clan, tribe, or nation; the vodun are the center of religious life. Adherents emphasize ancestor worship and hold that the spirits of the dead live side by side with the world of the living, each family of spirits having its own female priesthood, sometimes hereditary when it's from mother to blood daughter. Patterns of worship follow various dialects, practices and rituals; the divine Creator, called variously Mawu or Mahu, is a female being.
She is an elder woman, a mother, gentle and forgiving. She is seen as the god who owns all other gods and if there is no temple made in her name, the people continue to pray to her in times of distress. In one tradition, she bore seven children. Sakpata: Vodun of the Earth, Xêvioso: Vodun of Thunder associated with Divine Justice, Agbe: Vodun of the Sea, Gû: Vodun of Iron and War, Agê: Vodun of Agriculture and Forests, Jo: Vodun of Air, Lêgba: Vodun of the Unpredictable; the Creator embodies a dual cosmogonic principle of which Mawu the moon and Lisa the sun are the female and male aspects portrayed as the twin children of the Creator. Lisa is the sun god who brings the day and the heat, strength and energy. Mawu, the moon goddess, provides the cool of the night, peace and rain. To give this in a summed aspect, a proverb says ` Mawu forgives. Legba is represented as a phallus or as a man with a prominent phallus. Known as the youngest son of Mawu, he is the chief of all Vodun divinities. Being old he is seen as wise, but when seen as a child he is one, rebellious.
It is only through contact with Legba that it becomes possible to contact the other gods, for he is the guardian at the door of the spirits. Dan, Mawu's androgynous son, is represented as a rainbow serpent, was to remain with her and act as a go-between with her other creations; as the mediator between the spirits and the living, Dan maintains balance, order and communication. Other popular Lwa, or spiritual entities include Azaka who rules over agriculture, Erzuli has domain over love, Ogoun, in charge of war and who stands on guard. All creation therefore contains the power of the divine; this is how medicines such as herbal remedies are understood, explains the ubiquitous use of mundane objects in religious ritual. Vodun talismans, called "fetishes", are objects such as statues or dried animal or human parts that are sold for their healing and spiritually rejuvenating properties, they are objects inhabited by spirits. The entities that inhabit a fetish are able to perform different tasks according to their stage of development.
Fetish objects are combined together in the construction of "shrines", used to call forth specific vodun and their associated powers. The Queen Mother is the first daughter of a matriarchal lineage of a family collective, she holds the right to lead the ceremonies incumbent to the clan: marriages and funerals. She is one of the most important members of community, she will lead the women of a village. They take part in the organisation and the running of markets and are responsible for their upkeep, vitally important because marketplaces are the focal points for gatherings and social centres in their communities. In the past when the men of the villages would go to war, the Queen Mothers would lead prayer ceremonies in which all the women attended every morning to ensure the safe return of their menfolk; the high priestess is the woman chosen by the oracle to care for the convent. Priestesses, like priests, receive a calling from an oracle, which may come at any moment during their lives, they will join their clan's convent to pursue spiritual instruction.
It is an oracle that will designate the future high priest and high priestess among the new recruits, establishing an order of succession within the convent. Only blood relatives were allowed in the family convent. In modern days, some of the rules have been changed, enabling non family members to enter what is described as the first circle of worship. Strangers are allowed to worship only the spirits of the standard pantheon. About 17% of the population of Benin, some 1.6 million people, follow Vodun. In addition, many of the 41.5% of the population that refer to themselves as "Christian" practice a syncretized religion, not dissimilar from Haitian Vodou or Brazilian Candomblé.
Second Franco-Dahomean War
The Second Franco-Dahomean War, which raged from 1892 to 1894, was a major conflict between the French Third Republic, led by General Alfred-Amédée Dodds, the Kingdom of Dahomey under King Béhanzin. The French emerged triumphant and incorporated Dahomey into their growing colonial territory of French West Africa. In 1890, the Fon kingdom of Dahomey and the French Third Republic had gone to war in what was remembered as the First Franco-Dahomean War over the former's rights to certain territories those in the Ouémé Valley; the Fon ceased hostilities with the French after two military defeats, withdrawing their forces and signing a treaty conceding to all of France's demands. However, Dahomey remained a potent force in the area and re-armed with modern weapons in anticipation of a second, decisive conflict. After re-arming and regrouping, the Fon returned to raiding the Ouémé Valley, the same valley fought over in the first war with France. Victor Ballot, the French Resident at Porto-Novo, was sent via gunboat upriver to investigate.
His ship was forced to depart with five men wounded in the incident. King Benhanzin rejected complaints by the French, war was declared by the French; the French entrusted the war effort against Dahomey to Alfred-Amédée Dodds, an octoroon colonel of the Troupes de marine from Senegal. Colonel Dodds arrived with a force of 2,164 men including Foreign Legionnaires, engineers and Senegalese cavalry known as spahis plus the trusted tirailleurs; these forces were armed with the new Lebel rifles. The French protectorate kingdom of Porto-Novo added some 2,600 porters to aid in the fight; the Fon, prior to the outbreak of the second war, had stockpiled between 4,000 and 6,000 rifles including Mannlicher and Winchester carbines. These were purchased from German merchants via the port of Whydah. King Béhanzin bought some machine-guns and Krupp cannons, but it is unknown that these were put to use. On the 15 June 1892, the French blockaded Dahomey's coast to prevent any further arms sales. On the 4 July the first shots of the war were fired from French gunboats with the shelling of several villages along the lower Ouémé Valley.
The organized French army began moving inland in mid-August toward their final destination of the Dahomey capital of Abomey. The French invasion force assembled at the village of Dogba on the 14 September some 80 kilometres upriver on the border of Dahomey and Porto-Novo. At around 5:00am on the 19 September the French force was attacked by the army of Dahomey; the Fon broke off the attack after three to four hours of relentless fighting, characterized by repeated attempts by the Fon for melee combat. Hundreds of Fon were left dead on the field with the French forces suffering only five dead; the French forces moved another 24 km upriver before turning west in the direction of Abomey. On the 4 October the French column was attacked at Poguessa by Fon forces under the command of King Béhanzin himself; the Fon staged several fierce charges over two to three hours that all failed against the 20-inch bayonets of the French. The Dahomey army left the field in defeat losing some 200 soldiers; the French carried the day with only 42 casualties.
The Dahomey Amazons were conspicuous in the battle. After the hard-fought victory at Poguessa, the Fon resorted to guerilla tactics rather than set-piece engagements, it took the French invasion force a month to march the 40 km between Poguessa and the last major battle at Cana just outside Abomey. The Fon dug trenches in their desperate battle to slow the French invasion. On the 6 October the French had another major encounter with the Fon at the village of Adégon; the Fon, fared badly, losing 86 Dahomey Regulars and 417 Dahomey Amazons. The French suffered another 32 wounded before the fighting was ended; the French made use of a bayonet charge. The Battle was a turning point in the mind of Dahomey; the royal court decided. The battle was significant in that much of Dahomey's Amazon corps was lost in the engagement; the French column was able to cross another 24 km toward Abomey after Adégon, bivouacking at the village of Akpa. From the moment they arrived, they were attacked daily. From the French arrival until the 14 October 14, Dahomey's Amazons were conspicuously absent from the fighting.
On the 15 October, they reappeared in nearly every engagement inflicting significant losses against officers. Once resupplied, the French left Akpa on the 26 October toward the village of Cotopa. From the 26 to 27 October the French fought through the Dahomey forces at Cotopa and elsewhere, crossing lines of enemy trenches. Bayonet charges were the deciding factor in nearly all engagements; the Fon penchant for hand-to-hand fighting left them at a disadvantage against French bayonets, which outreatched Dahomey's swords and machetes. The Amazons are reported by the French to have fought the hardest, charging out of their trenches but to no avail. From the 2 November until the 4 November the Fon armies fought on the outskirts of Cana. By this time, Béhanzin's army numbered no more than 1,500 including pardoned convicts. On the 3 November the king directed the attack on the French bivouac. Amazons seemed to have made up much of the force. After four hours of desperate combat, the Fon army withdrew.
The fighting continued until the fourth. The last engagement at Cana, which took place at the village of Diokoué, site of a royal palace, was the last time Amazons would be used. Special units of the Amazon
Atlantic slave trade
The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people to the Americas. The slave trade used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries; the vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from central and western Africa, sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders, who brought them to the Americas. The South Atlantic and Caribbean economies were dependent on the supply of secure labour for the production of commodity crops, making goods and clothing to sell in Europe; this was crucial to those western European countries which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires. The Portuguese were the first to engage in the Atlantic slave trade in the 16th century. In 1526, they completed the first transatlantic slave voyage to Brazil, other European countries soon followed.
Shipowners regarded the slaves as cargo to be transported to the Americas as and cheaply as possible, there to be sold to work on coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations and silver mines, rice fields, construction industry, cutting timber for ships, in skilled labour, as domestic servants. The first Africans imported to the English colonies were classified as "indentured servants", like workers coming from England, as "apprentices for life". By the middle of the 17th century, slavery had hardened as a racial caste, with the slaves and their offspring being the property of their owners, children born to slave mothers were slaves; as property, the people were considered merchandise or units of labour, were sold at markets with other goods and services. The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch Empires. Several had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African leaders.
These slaves were managed by a factor, established on or near the coast to expedite the shipping of slaves to the New World. Slaves were kept in a factory while awaiting shipment. Current estimates are that about 12 to 12.8 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years, although the number purchased by the traders was higher, as the passage had a high death rate. Near the beginning of the 19th century, various governments acted to ban the trade, although illegal smuggling still occurred. In the early 21st century, several governments issued apologies for the transatlantic slave trade; the Atlantic slave trade developed after trade contacts were established between the "Old World" and the "New World". For centuries, tidal currents had made ocean travel difficult and risky for the ships that were available, as such there had been little, if any, maritime contact between the peoples living in these continents. In the 15th century, new European developments in seafaring technologies resulted in ships being better equipped to deal with the tidal currents, could begin traversing the Atlantic Ocean.
Between 1600 and 1800 300,000 sailors engaged in the slave trade visited West Africa. In doing so, they came into contact with societies living along the west African coast and in the Americas which they had never encountered. Historian Pierre Chaunu termed the consequences of European navigation "disenclavement", with it marking an end of isolation for some societies and an increase in inter-societal contact for most others. Historian John Thornton noted, "A number of technical and geographical factors combined to make Europeans the most people to explore the Atlantic and develop its commerce", he identified these as being the drive to find new and profitable commercial opportunities outside Europe as well as the desire to create an alternative trade network to that controlled by the Muslim Empire of the Middle East, viewed as a commercial and religious threat to European Christendom. In particular, European traders wanted to trade for gold, which could be found in western Africa, to find a maritime route to "the Indies", where they could trade for luxury goods such as spices without having to obtain these items from Middle Eastern Islamic traders.
Although many of the initial Atlantic naval explorations were led by Iberians, members of many European nationalities were involved, including sailors from Portugal, the Italian kingdoms, England and the Netherlands. This diversity led Thornton to describe the initial "exploration of the Atlantic" as "a international exercise if many of the dramatic discoveries were made under the sponsorship of the Iberian monarchs"; that leadership gave rise to the myth that "the Iberians were the sole leaders of the exploration". Slavery was prevalent in many parts of Africa for many centuries before the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade. There is evidence that enslaved people from some parts of Africa were exported to states in Africa and Asia prior to the European colonization of the Americas; the Atlantic slave trade was not the only slave trade from Africa, although it was the largest in volume and intensity. As Elikia M'bokolo wrote in Le Monde diplomatique: The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes.
Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic. At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries... Fou
Dutch Slave Coast
The Dutch Slave Coast refers to the trading posts of the Dutch West India Company on the Slave Coast, which lie in contemporary Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. The primary purpose of the trading post was to supply slaves for the plantation colonies in the Americas. Dutch involvement on the Slave Coast started with the establishment of a trading post in Offra in 1660. Trade shifted to Ouidah, where the English and French had a trading post. Political unrest caused the Dutch to abandon their trading post at Ouidah in 1725, now moving to Jaquim, at which place they built Fort Zeelandia. By 1760, the Dutch had abandoned their last trading post in the region; the Slave Coast was settled from the Dutch Gold Coast. During its existence, the Slave Coast held a close relationship to that colony. According to various sources, the Dutch West India Company began sending servants to the Ajaland capital of Allada from 1640 onward; the Dutch had in the decades before begun to take an interest in the Atlantic slave trade due to their capture of northern Brazil from the Portuguese.
Willem Bosman writes in his Nauwkeurige beschrijving van de Guinese Goud- Tand- en Slavekust that Allada was called Grand Ardra, being the larger cousin of Little Ardra known as Offra. From 1660 onward, Dutch presence in Allada and Offra became more permanent. A report from this year asserts Dutch trading posts, apart from Allada and Offra, in Benin City, Grand-Popo, Savi; the Offra trading post soon became the most important Dutch office on the Slave Coast. According to a 1670 report, annually 2,500 to 3,000 slaves were transported from Offra to the Americas and writing of the 1690s, Bosman commented of the trade at Fida, "markets of men are here kept in the same manner as those of beasts are with us." Numbers of slaves declined in times of conflict. From 1688 onward, the struggle between the Aja king of Allada and the peoples on the coastal regions, impeded the supply of slaves; the Dutch West India Company chose the side of the Aja king, causing the Offra office to be destroyed by opposing forces in 1692.
After this debacle, Dutch involvement on the Slave Coast came less to a halt. During his second voyage to Benin, David van Nyendael visited the king of Benin in Benin City, his detailed description of this journey was included as an appendix to Willem Bosman's Nauwkeurige beschrijving van de Guinese Goud- Tand- en Slavekust. His description of the kingdom remains valuable as one of the earliest detailed descriptions of Benin. On the instigation of Governor-General of the Dutch Gold Coast Willem de la Palma, Jacob van den Broucke was sent in 1703 as "opperkommies" to the Dutch trading post at Ouidah, which according to sources was established around 1670. Ouidah was the place where English and French traded slaves, making this place the candidate for the new main trading post on the Slave Coast. Political unrest was the reason for the Ouidah office to close in 1725; the company this time moved their headquarters to Jaquim, situated more easterly. The head of the post, Hendrik Hertog, had a reputation for being a successful slave trader.
In an attempt to extend his trading area, Hertog negotiated with local tribes and mingled in local political struggles. He sided with the wrong party, leading to a conflict with Director-General Jan Pranger and to his exile to the island of Appa in 1732; the Dutch trading post on this island was extended as the new centre of slave trade. In 1733, Hertog returned to Jaquim, this time extending the trading post into Fort Zeelandia; the revival of slave trade at Jaquim was only temporary, however, as his superiors at the Dutch West India Company noticed that Hertog's slaves were more expensive than at the Gold Coast. From 1735, Elmina became the preferred spot to trade slaves. Delepeleire, Y.. Nederlands Elmina: een socio-economische analyse van de Tweede Westindische Compagnie in West-Afrika in 1715. Gent: Universiteit Gent. Den Heijer, Henk. "David van Nyendael: the first European envoy to the court of Ashanti". In Van Kessel, W. M. J. Merchants, missionaries & migrants: 300 years of Dutch-Ghanaian relations.
Amsterdam: KIT publishers. Pp. 41–49. Media related to Dutch Slave Coast at Wikimedia Commons
Royal Palaces of Abomey
The Royal Palaces of Abomey are 12 palaces spread over an area of 40 hectares at the heart of the Abomey town in Benin the capital of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey. The Kingdom was founded in 1625 by the Fon people who developed it into a powerful military and commercial empire, which dominated trade with European slave traders on the Slave Coast until the late 19th century, to whom they sold their prisoners of war. At its peak the palaces could accommodate for up to 8000 people; the King's palace included a two-story building known as akuehue. Under the twelve kings who succeeded from 1625 to 1900, the kingdom established itself as one of the most powerful of the western coast of Africa. UNESCO had inscribed the palaces on the List of World Heritage Sites in Africa. Following this, the site had to be included under the List of World Heritage in Danger since Abomey was hit by a tornado on 15 March 1984, when the royal enclosure and museums the King Guezo Portico, the Assins Room, King's tomb and Jewel Room were damaged.
However, with assistance from several international agencies the restoration and renovation work was completed. Based on the corrective works carried out and reports received on these renovations at Abomey, UNESCO decided to remove the Royal Palaces of Abomey, Benin from the List of World Heritage in Danger, in July 2007. Today, the palaces are no longer inhabited, but those of King Ghézo and King Glélé house the Historical Museum of Abomey, which illustrates the history of the kingdom and its symbolism through a desire for independence and fight against colonial occupation; the opulent palaces built by the 12 rulers of the kingdom within the cloistered site of Abomey, functioned between 1695 and 1900, as the traditional cultural hub of the empire. The first ruler to initiate the building of palaces was King Houegbadja. According to folklore, the descendents of the royal family of Abomey who built the 12 Royal Palaces of Abomey are the progeny of Princess Aligbonon of Tado and a panther, their kingdom existed in the southern part of the present day Republic of Benin in Abomey.
Recorded history is, traced to the 17th century to two of their descendants, namely Do-Aklin and Dakodonou. Houegbadja was the king who established the kingdom on the Abomey plateau and set the legal framework for the kingdom's functioning, political role, succession rules and so forth. King Agaja defeated the kingdom of Allada in 1724 and the Kingdom of Whydah in 1727; this resulted in killing of several prisoners. Many of the prisoners were sold as slaves at Ouidah called Gléwé; these wars marked the beginning of the dominance of Dahomey's slave trade (which was carried out through the port of Whydah with the Europeans. In the 19th century, with the rise of the antislavery movement in Great Britain, King Guézo initiated agricultural development in the country, which resulted in further economic prosperity of the kingdom achieved through exports of agricultural products such as corn and palm oil. In 1892-1894, France invaded Dahomey. Dahomey won many battles when the chief of the French army was killed.
However, Dahomey succumbed to the forces of the French Army. It became a colony of France. King Béhanzin, the last independent reigning king of Dahomey, after getting defeated by the French colonial forces, set fire to Abomey; the French deported him to Martinique. His successor King Agooli Agbo could rule only till his deportation to Gabon in 1900. In 1960, when the present day Bénin attained independence from France, it bore the name Dahomey; the official history of the kingdom were recorded and followed through a series of polychrome earthen bas-reliefs. Dahomean culture was deep rooted with intense reverence for the kings of Dahomey and with great religious significance; each king was symbolised on a "common appliquéd quilt". Ceremonies were part of the culture; the town where the palaces were built was surrounded by a mud wall with a circumference estimated at 10 kilometres, pierced by six gates, protected by a ditch 1.5 m deep, filled with a dense growth of prickly acacia, the usual defence of West African strongholds.
Within the walls were villages separated by fields, several royal palaces, a market-place and a large square containing the barracks. The average thickness of the walls was about 0.5 m, which maintained cool temperatures inside the palace rooms. Each palace had a distinct design to suit the whims of the kings; the Kpododji through the Honnouwa formed the first interior courtyard of the palace while the second interior courtyard Jalalahènnou was by the Logodo. The Ajalala, a unique building, which has many types of openings, is in the second courtyard; the palaces of Glèlè and Guézo, which survived the intentional fire of 1894 set by Béhanzin, were restored and they are now part of the museum. The materials used for construction consisted of earth for the foundations and raised structures; the wood work was made with palm, bamboo and mahogany species. Roof was made of sheet-metal; the bas reliefs functioned as a record book to record the significant events in the evolution of the Fon people and their empire, relating the military victories and power of each king and documenting the Fon people's myths and rituals.
However, in 1892, in defiance of French occupation, King Behanzin ordered that the city and the palaces be burned. Providentially, most monuments survived many palaces have been since restored. Copper and brass plaques adorned the walls. T