Pre-Colonial Eko – War camp, fishing village and pepper farm

West Africa Map

Why was Lagos so important?

The Lagos settlement served as the intersection of two worlds – the coastal lagoon trade system of the slave coast and the Atlantic triangle trade system.

In pre-modern West Africa long distance transportation was largely restricted to the riverine traffic of the tropical south and arduous overland caravan routes in the arid north of the region. Roads were extremely limited and constrained to the central regions of major cosmopolitan empires and city states. In many areas of tropical West Africa pack animals were scarce or entirely absent due to trypanosomiasis (a parasitic disease affecting large mammals) and the use of the wheel for transportation in the region was virtually unknown until the arrival of European colonists.

Because waterborne travel was so important the extensive coastal lagoon ranging from the Volta River in the West to the Mahin River in the East was the main highway by which long distance trade was conducted along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea – the Slave Coast. At the center of the 400 Mile long system of lagoons is the Lagos Lagoon and Lagos Island. The waters of the Atlantic directly off the coast are not suitable for small-vessel traffic and so the Lagoons became the primary zone of interaction between the Ocean-going Europeans and the coastal African Kingdoms.

Lagos is situated near the center of these Lagoons at a spot where it is possible to pass easily from the Atlantic into the inland Lagos Lagoon – a large, calm body of water capable of hosting the lively Atlantic trade. At the height of the triangle trade Lagos was the most important port-city in West Africa and continued to be important, especially as a slave-trade city, until the British occupation of the city in 1861.


A drawing of Benin made by an English officer just after both Benin and Lagos were occupied by the British. Lagos would have looked much like this.


  1. cwjackson says:

    Very in depth, and I love the timeline. Wish I’d done one of those, it’s awesome. Overall, I really like it, it’s full of good information (especially geographical, I’m a map junkie), and really well done.

  2. Sloane Nilsen says:

    Your website astonishingly comprehensive. Your timeline is particularly helpful, and you present the material in a clear and thorough fashion. The layout is, indeed, lovely. Your integration of quantitative and qualitative evidence maintains an even balance throughout the site, and your incorporation of visual material, in the form of maps, charts, and images, provides the website with a compelling allure. Great job!

  3. Hailey Sabol says:

    The historical overview was very helpful, as I haven’t had much experience before with this topic or city. On that note, the map was particularly helpful to see as I gathered background information because it allowed me to visualize where in the world it was that these events were taking place. Nice placement and great site!

  4. Josiah Depaoli says:

    Your use of the available information as well as the contextualization of Lagos within the rest of Africa and Atlantic trade really brings out a good understanding of the answer to the attention grabbing question you place on the intro page. The maps and the layout also help make the information accessible.

  5. Samantha Stafford says:

    The interactive map at the top of this page is really cool and I like your inclusion on the side of “Eko- A Short History”, it was very interesting to read about how Eko got its name, and became Lagos. The inclusion of the timeline is very helpful as well. Overall the information is presented in a unique way that is also clear.

  6. Cameron Murphy says:

    I don’t know much about Lagos, so it was helpful to get an overview of its importance as soon as I clicked on your site. Since its location was so central to its significance, it was also smart to include an interactive map. Great work!

  7. Firstly, I must say that the map you created is an amazing resource to help situate me in Lagos. I very much enjoyed the maps and images that you used to accompany your information, they really pair well together. An excellent job on an excellent site.

  8. Timmy Kopczynski says:

    I really like the different forms of media that you have throughout your website. There is a variety of maps, art, charts, etc. that really add to the overall experience. I especially like the customized Google map on the homepage. I also think that the timeline is very useful and is a great way of tying everything together. The information was very interesting and I like how you posed a question and then went into detail. Great job!

  9. skjaldin says:

    I really enjoyed the home page. Not many people know why Lagos is important, myself included, and this really provided the necessary information to understand why you decided to work on this particular city.

  10. William Maas says:

    Loved where / how you situated yourself for your project, demonstrating that Lagos was so important, and then asking why. Greatly enjoyed your work with different media forms as well. Timeline helped it all come together.

  11. Having the intro page be a “why is this important” is a great way to engage viewers early on, and ties in the different pages on the site! The interactive map is great as well, I wish I thought of this for my site!

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