IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > G. Africa, 1500–1800 > 2. Regions > b. Forest West Africa
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1481)
b. Forest West Africa
15th Century Onward
The first state to provide Europeans with a significant supply of slaves from the forests of eastern Nigeria, Benin owed its rapid development to its centralized kingship and its location along major West African trade routes. Benin's rulers extended their authority through military force and consequently maintained a monarchy that lasted through the 19th century. By the beginning of the 16th century, Benin had two hierarchies of power, centered on palace chiefs and town chiefs. The state earned revenue from its monopoly over certain commodities, taxation, and judicial fines. Benin was the most important African state the Portuguese came in contact with up to 1486.  1
John Hawkins initiated the British slave trade by taking a load of 300 slaves from Sierra Leone.  2
c. 1575
The Fon kingdom of Dahomey arose amid the unstable conditions and rivalries spawned by the Atlantic slave trade. Located in the southern portion of present-day Benin, Dahomey developed into a highly centralized state. By absorbing other polities in its midst, it became a major power by 1700.  3
Dutch established trading stations along the Guinea coast.  4
c. 1606
Dutch, Flemish, and Portuguese traders active in Sierra Leone.  5
French effort to operate a factory on the Gambia River failed.  6
British established post at Bathurst, mouth of the Gambia River.  7
Dutch founded trading stations on Gorée Island and at Arguin.  8
The French established themselves at Saint-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal River.  9
c. 1630–70
The first Asante towns began attracting immigrants in the early 17th century. Each developed its own political structure but shared certain common traits, including matrilineal descent. State building progressed steadily, spurred by the abundant human and natural resources of the region, aided by the use of slave labor. The Akan occupied and colonized the densely populated region between the eastern Ivory Coast and the Volta River, also noted for having the most productive gold deposits in the region. In addition to the trade in gold northward to the grasslands and to the Mediterranean via the trans-Saharan trade, the arrival of Europeans stimulated increased production of gold for trade along the coast. Africans purchased as slaves or captured in wars of conquest were used within Akan society as farm laborers, miners, and porters.  10
In the late 17th century, Asante began to battle neighboring states for supremacy; by the early 18th century, Asante had become the strongest of the Akan centralized states. Its empire was based on military exploits and conquest.  11
17th Century
Small states along the Gold Coast emerged, stimulated by the state building of the Asante to the north and by the commercial opportunities offered by the Europeans. The growth of this trade led to the formation of several small states along the Gold Coast, including Adansi, Denkyira, Assin, and Akwamu.  12
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.