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Title:Servitude and worldly success in the palace of Dahomey
Author:Bay, E.G.ISNI
Book title:Women and slavery in Africa
Geographic term:Benin
Subjects:Dahomey polity
Abstract:In the precolonial Fon kingdom of Dahomey the greatest opportunities for worldly success for slave and free women occurred through membership in a complex institution at the heart of the state structure, the royal household, or palace. This paper discusses the royal household as it existed in the late 19th century when its population was at its height, numbering as many as 8,000 persons. It shows that also the legal and social standing of women who entered the king's service varied widely, a fundamental distinction of residence in the palace gave all nonroyal women there a status so unlike any other that contemporary Fon informants refer to them all as having been 'slaves'. Contents: Fon social organisation - recruitment to the palace - production - loyalty, reward and the exercise of power - queen mother and the royal succession. Notes, ref.