Early Trade in Benin City

In 1553, English merchants lead by Thomas Wyndham were received in person by the Oba (king), who in turn traded with them in person, a practice common in the sixteenth century and confirmed by Portuguese reports as well (Hakluyt 1589: 53-65). According to a general description of trade written in 1623, Dutch pepper merchants participated in an extensive credit system, including use of written notes, with the two royal officials in charge of trade. Volume was considerable. Just one of the several Dutch ships involved in the Benin trade, the Olyphant, delivered 88,235 pounds of ivory and 1,337 pounds of Benin pepper to Texel, an island in the Netherlands, in 1630 (Van Wassenaer 1630).

The production of cloth was widespread and in local hands. Cotton growing and weaving were extensive throughout the Benin kingdom, as noted by visitors beginning with Welsh in 1588, followed by Ulsheimer in 1601, who noted its sale to Europeans through Lagos, then in Benin's hands, and Ruiters in 1602 (Hakluyt 1589). Samuel Brun, visiting Benin about 1614 noted that Benin made 'very beautiful cloths, which are exported far and wide and sold. Weaving was essentially a home industry, done by women in their spare time, if more recent documentation is any guide. Their cloth was not only for personal use, as the written accounts attest, but for long-distance trade with other African people, thousands of such cloths being shipped annually by the middle of the seventeenth century, either by the inland waterway past Lagos or on European shipping to the Gold Coast (Ratelband 1645). They even turned up, through European shipping connections, among the burial goods of Queen Nzinga of Matamba central Africa in 1663 (Cavazzi 1687: 110-12). 

the following site explains a little about benin and shows pics



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Great Benin Bronze


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