Tegbesu – Benin Slavery Kingpin From Oyo – His Female Warriors were Called Amazons … abijohn.com

King Tegbesu, also known as Tegbesou, was the ruler of the Kingdom of Dahomey in present-day Benin, located in West Africa. He reigned from 1740 to 1774.

What was King Tegbesu’s relationship with European colonizers and traders?

King Tegbesu made £250,000 a year selling people into slavery in 1750. King Gezo said in the 1840’s he would do anything the British wanted him to do
Who was King Tegbesu?
King Tegbesu was the fourth king of Dahomey, a West African kingdom that existed from 1625 to 1894.
Tegbesu ascended to the throne following the death of his father, King Agaja. During his reign, Dahomey experienced significant expansion and military success. Tegbesu is known for strengthening and modernizing the Dahomey army, which was composed primarily of female soldiers called Amazons. Under his rule, the Amazons became a formidable force, renowned for their bravery and skill in battle.

King Tegbesu also made efforts to consolidate his authority and centralize power within Dahomey. He enacted various administrative reforms and introduced a system of taxation. Tegbesu sought to strengthen the kingdom economically by promoting trade with European powers, particularly with the French, who had established a presence in the region.

Despite his military successes and reforms, King Tegbesu faced challenges from internal and external forces. He had to contend with rebellions within his kingdom and faced several military conflicts with neighboring states. In particular, he faced resistance from the kingdom of Allada, which was eventually annexed by Dahomey.

Tegbesu’s reign came to an end in 1774 when he died. He was succeeded by his son, King Kpengla, who continued many of his father’s policies. King Tegbesu’s legacy lies in his military achievements, his efforts to modernize Dahomey, and his role in expanding the kingdom’s influence in the region.

The slave trade increased significantly during Tegbesu’s reign and begun to provide the largest part of the income for the king, reportedly earning him £250,000 per year (over £56 million adjusted for inflation as of 2020 according to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator)

Oral traditions hold that Tegbesu was the son of Agaja and Hwanjile, a woman reported to have brought Vodun to the kingdom. King Agaja had significantly expanded the Kingdom of Dahomey during his reign, notably conquering Allada in 1724 and Whydah in 1727. This increased the size of the kingdom and increased both domestic dissent (with the royal aristocrats of both Allada and Whydah opposing Dahomey from fortified islands off the coast) and regional opposition (mainly with semi-regular warfare between Dahomey and the Oyo Empire).[1] According to one oral tradition, as part of the tribute owed by Dahomey to Oyo, Agaja had to give to Oyo one of his sons. The story claims that only Hwanjile of all of Agaja’s wives was willing to allow her son to go to Oyo.[2] This act of sacrifice, according to the oral tradition made Tegbesu favored by Agaja.[3] Agaja reportedly tells Tegbesu that he is the future king, but his brother Zinga is still the official heir.

One oral history contends that with the death of Agaja, Tegbesu’s brothers quickly plot to kill him. His brothers surrounded his house to prevent him from reaching the Palace and claiming the throne, but he miraculously escapes and reaches the palace.[2] Despite challenges, the Great Council appoints Tegbesu the new king.[4] Historian Edna Bay notes that oral histories disagree about precisely who appointed Tegbesu as the new king.[2]

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