Using a combination of oral traditions and written sources, this work reconstructs the history of Owo, a frontier Yoruba kingdom in southwestern Nigeria, from about the 12th century to the 20th century. One of a number of kingdoms springing up in this forest country in the 11th and 12th centuries, Owo developed as a typical Yoruba kingdom, with a system of limited monarchy and careful balances of the interests of society. However, Owo was the closest Yoruba kingdom to another kingdom that was not Yoruba, that had a significantly different political system characterized by nearly complete monarchical absolutism. Inevitably, Owo developed relationships with that kingdom, the strong, expansionist Benin kingdom of the Edo people---in trade, culture. Owo seems to have grown slowly until it came under pressure of this much stronger neighbor. Benin's ownership of coastal territory had positioned her to benefit from the coastal trade with Europeans beginning from the last years of the 15th century. Wealth from the trade and the acquisition of imported weapons of war (European guns), had transformed Benin into a formidable adversary to her neighbors. Unable to match Benin's military power, Owo strove for independent survival by entering into creative commercial and political arrangements with Benin. Over time, Owo-Benin relations attained a certain stability featuring much cultural interaction, friendly trade in each other's domain, and traders from both kingdoms' trading side by side far into the interior. Politically, Owo began to be impacted by the Benin system, thereby creating a long history of conflict and instability in the internal politics of the Owo kingdom. In spite of such, however, Owo continued to prosper economically. Owo also developed excellent diplomatic skills that preserved her independence and prevented frequent wars with Benin. Owo's economic prosperity spurred cultural growth and revival, making Owo a great cultural center in Yorubaland. Although Owo's political life never fully recovered from the disruptions imported by her contacts with Benin, Owo never ceased to be a prosperous and independent kingdom. The same trends continued under the British and have continued in the context of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
|School:||Union Institute and University|
|School Location:||United States -- Ohio|
|Source:||DAI-A 68/03, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||African literature, Cultural anthropology, African history|
|Keywords:||Benin, Frontier, Kingdom, Nigeria, Owo, Yoruba|
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