In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Dahomey is Number 105 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Dahomey (present-day Benin) was an African kingdom that arose most likely in the second quarter of the 17th century. It became a protectorate of France in 1892. In 1904 it became a French colony, part of the Government-General of French West Africa. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, and economic conditions. Social and political conditions are covered in Number 100 in the series, French West Africa. The study discusses the delineation of Dahomey’s border with the British colony of Lagos (present-day Nigeria) to the east and Togoland (then a German colony) to the west. It briefly describes the main ethnic groups living in the country, including the Fong (Fon), Mina, Aja (Adja), Nago, Mahi, Bariba, Dendi, Hausa, and Fulbe (Fulani) peoples. The total population of the colony is given as approximately 900,000. The section on economic conditions discusses the economic potential of the colony, based on its agricultural wealth and the prospects for increased production of palm oil, cocoa, rubber, and other products. Kotonu (Cotonou) was the colony’s main port, with steamship connections to Le Havre, Marseilles, Hamburg, and Liverpool. Dahomey became the independent Republic of Dahomey on August 1, 1960; it changed its name to Benin in 1975.

Last updated: September 5, 2014