I have posted below a lecture I wrote for week six of my West African History course. The lecture is designed to take about 30 minutes to deliver. It is about the Kingdom of Dahomey in the precolonial period and the nation of Benin’s embrace of Transatlantic Slave Trade tourism in the modern era.
This lecture sets up a primary source lab that takes place immediately afterward. In this lab, students get into small groups and investigate copies of the Whydah Day Books from The National Archives in Kew, England. These are bi-monthly account books that record the activities of the English governor and factor resident at William’s Fort. Not only do these books show the activities of these administrators from the African Company of Merchants, but they provide insight into the lives of the Africans who interacted with the fort. This includes the so-called “Castle” or “Company Slaves,” the Dahomean linguist, the viceroy, the caboceers, and the king. The day books we are looking at date to the middle of the eighteenth century. The lecture is also designed to set up our seminar discussion on Thursday. We will participate in a large-group discussion about two articles. One is by Robin Law; it is called “Dahomey and the Slave Trade;” and it came out in The Journal of African History in 1986. It covers the historiography of Dahomey and discusses how that literature developed in tandem with contemporary debates about the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The second piece is by Ana Lucia Araujo; it is called “Welcome the Diaspora;” and it came out in Ethnologies in 2010. It explores the nation of Benin’s embrace of diaspora tourism since the 1990s. In discussing the Route of Slaves in Ouidah, it draws particular attention to the question of how peoples’ memory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade must share public space with other expressions of history and cultural heritage.