The Fall of Dahomey

  • John D. Hargreaves


Even when Franco-Dahomean conflicts, began to escalate during the 1880s, few Frenchmen felt any imperial mission to conquer Gelele’s Kingdom, least of all those who actually operated on its soil. Despite vast cultural differences and profound mutual misunderstandings Franco-Dahomean relations rested on a basis of real but limited mutual interest. The merchants could obtain palm-oil in quantity and at reasonable prices; the Kings of Dahomey received in return fire-arms and consumer goods, which fortified the power of the monarchy. The conditions they imposed at Whydah, the traditional port of trade, included stringent control on the movements of foreigners, and enforcement of Dahomean commercial regulations;1 but the merchants accepted this for the sake of good business, confident that they would never be squeezed to the point of unprofitability. Régis indeed was often the arbiter of Franco-Dahomean relations, advising both the French Government and Gelele on their policy, and facilitating settlement of the British blockade in 1876–7 at his own expense.2 “In all grave circumstances the sovereigns of Dahomey have always approached us for advice”, his firm claimed, with justification.3


Brussels Convention Military Campaign Human Sacrifice Colonial Group West African State 
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  1. 20.
    M. J. and F. S. Herskovits, Dahomean Narrative (Evanston 1958), p. 376; cf the traditions reported by Behanzin’s brother Agbidinoukon in App. I of A. Le Herissé, L’ancien Royaume du Dahomey (Paris, 1911).Google Scholar
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© John D. Hargreaves 1985

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  • John D. Hargreaves

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