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A former kingdom in West Africa. In the 16th century the kingdom of Allada, with which the Portuguese had commercial relations, was founded. Two further kingdoms of Abomey and Adjatché (now Porto Novo), were founded c.1625. These were united by conquest by Ouegbadja of Abomey between 1645 and 1685, and renamed Dahomey. The kingdom had a special notoriety with travellers from Europe for its ‘customs’: the ‘grand customs’ on the death of a king, and the biennial ‘minor customs’, at both of which captured slaves were sacrificed in numbers to provide the deceased king with attendants in the spirit world. Women soldiers were first trained by King Agadja (1708–32). French trading forts were established in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the rulers of Dahomey succeeded in limiting their influence and restricting the slave trade. Under French rule from 1892, it became independent in 1960, and changed its name in 1975 to the Republic of Benin.

Subjects: World History — African Studies.

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