Argyle, William John, 1931-. The Fon of Dahomey: a history and ethnography of the Old Kingdom

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Title: The Fon of Dahomey: a history and ethnography of the Old Kingdom

Published By: Clarendon Press. 1966. [7], 210 p. ill., map

By line: by W.J. Argyle

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 2016. Computer File

Culture: Fon (FA18)

Subjects: Historical reconstruction (174); History (175); Cultural identity and pride (186); Chief executive (643); Form and rules of government (642); Territorial hierarchy (631); Administrative agencies (647); External relations (648); Inter-ethnic relations (629); Acculturation and culture contact (177);

Abstract: This book discusses the history of the ancient West African Kingdom of Dahomey from its origin on the plateau of Abomey to its territorial expansion down to the coast. The focus is on links between powers of the Dahomean monarchy and the local dynamics of kinship groups, religious institutions and village life. Combining data both from historical sources and contemporary ethnographic accounts, the author argues that Dahomey culture and society can be understood only by reference to the history of the kingdom including changes in the territorial scope and political powers of successive monarchs. The despotism of each monarch was, for example, historically related to the strength of local institutions in counter checking royal prerogatives. This suggested that earlier sources which described Dahomean kings as absolute despots were not entirely correct. They tended to undermine the agency of individuals and cultural institutions in mediating the effects of royal powers on village life. The author discusses activities of several institutions, including Village Chiefs, mutual aid societies, descent groups, best friends, and cooperative work groups, which enabled village communities to remain greatly autonomous while also maintaining a degree of allegiance to the ruling monarch.

Document Number: 6

Document ID: fa18-006

Document Type: Monograph

Language: English

Note: Based on thesis, Oxford University Includes bibliographical references (p. 201-207)

Field Date: not applicable

Evaluation: Historian-4

Analyst: Teferi Abate Adem

Coverage Date: 1625 – 1960

Coverage Place: Benin (Dahomey)

LCSH: Fon (African people)//Ethnology--Benin//Benin--History

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