Book

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

Clarendon PressOxford • Published In 1966 • Pages: [7], 210

By: Argyle, William John.

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.
Subjects
Historical reconstruction
History
Cultural identity and pride
Chief executive
Form and rules of government
Territorial hierarchy
Administrative agencies
External relations
Inter-ethnic relations
Acculturation and culture contact
culture
Fon
HRAF PubDate
2016
Region
Africa
Sub Region
Western Africa
Document Type
Book
Evaluation
Historian-4
Analyst
Teferi Abate Adem
Coverage Date
1625 – 1960
Coverage Place
Benin (Dahomey)
Notes
by W.J. Argyle
Based on thesis, Oxford University
Includes bibliographical references (p. 201-207)
LCCN
66069351
LCSH
Fon (African people)
Ethnology--Benin
Benin--History