III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > D. Africa, 500–1500 > 4. Regions, 1000–1500 > b. Forest West Africa
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 900–1100)
b. Forest West Africa
c. 1000–1100
The first Yoruba kingdom to develop a highly centralized state, Ife achieved renown for its patronage of skilled craftsmen. Ife kings especially encouraged the production of cooper and brass ornaments. As the 11th century progressed, the hierarchy of courtly officials serving under the monarchy expanded.  1
The city of Benin flourished as a regional center of politics and commerce.  2
c. 1300–1400
The powerful kingdom of Benin entered a new phase of growth and consolidation, according to the oral traditions surrounding Prince Oranyon.  3
During the rule of Ewuare, the power of the Benin monarchy grew considerably, far outstripping that of Ife at its height. He ushered in a political revolution that led to the emergence of a bureaucracy tosupport the ruler's power against the hereditary chiefs. Benin city walls were built, and Benin expanded militarily and commercially throughout the Niger Delta region. At the time of the Portuguese contact, Benin was the most powerful forest kingdom. The artisanal caste of bronze casters was under the direct patronage of the oba, the ruler of Benin, and produced very impressive bronze works.  4
c. 1400–1500
The Upper Guinea coast—between present-day Senegal and Sierra Leone—witnessed the development of several kingdoms prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, including the Niumi, Badibu, Niani, and Wuli. Part of the stimulus to state formation in the region was the expansion of Malian authority. One of Sundiata's generals established the Kaabu state there, providing the kingdom of Mali with a western outpost.  5
Seeking a local base near Africa, the Portuguese established their headquarters on São Tiago, one of the Cape Verde Islands close to the African mainland. Following Portuguese occupation, herding, cotton cultivation, and weaving became the mainstays of the Cape Verde economy. Slaves from Senegambia and Upper Guinea were imported soon after Europeans settled on the islands.  6
With the help of African slave labor, the Portuguese established sugarcane plantations on São Tomé Island in the Bight of Benin. Exclusively using African slaves to cultivate sugar, São Tomé became the harbinger of the slave system of the Atlantic economy.  7
Portuguese constructed the fort of Elmina on the Gold Coast. Elmina was the first Portuguese settlement on the African mainland. From this strategic site, the Portuguese began to engage in trade with the indigenous peoples, often acting as middlemen between two African societies. The Portuguese traded African slaves for locally mined gold. Slaves helped to clear the forests and provided new power to the emerging African rulers of the Gold Coast. (See Forest West Africa)  8
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.