Timeline: Eko – Onim – Lagos

Africa 1400

Africa c. 1400

  • 500 B.C. – Ile Ife is founded. Ile Ife is the oldest Yoruba city. Benin, Lagos and even the pre-Lagosian Awori people were descendants of Ile Ife and were Yoruba.
  • 1180 A.D. – Benin is founded as a city state of its own by the Yoruba-descended (uncertain) Edo or Bini people. The city was originally ruled by the Ogiso dynasty.
  • 1100 – 1200 A.D. – By some series of bizarre courtly intrigues, wars and political maneuverings the 3rd generation progeny of an exiled Ogiso prince becomes the ruler of Benin as the first Oba. Accounts of the origins of the Obas varies and is a sensitive political-ethnic issue.
  • 1400’s A.D. – Benin has become a series of interconnected fortified settlements based around Benin city proper. The state is ruled by the centralized authority of the Oba in Benin. Benin is known as a military powerhouse in the region.
  • 1400’s A.D. – The 12th Oba of Benin, Ewuare the Great, makes Benin an empire and his military campaigns expand Benin’s influence up the Niger and along the coast.
  • Late 1400’s A.D. – Portuguese explorers describe the Lagos lagoon inlet, lake and island. Initial contact with Benin and neighboring states are made in the 1400’s.
  • 1485 A.D. – A Portuguese map notes the existence of the Lagos lagoon lake.

Africa c. 1600

  • 1508 A.D. – Duarte Pacheco Pereira is sent to survey Guinea Coast. Pacheco Pereira describes the location of Lagos as an important inlet into the coastal Lagoon system, but does not yet understand the significance of the access as the true extent of the lagoons is unknown.
  • 1519 A.D. – disagreements with the Obas in Benin drive European traders to business with Ijebu.
  • 1539 A.D. – European accounts claim that the Oba of Benin was actively consolidating his control over the states in and around Lagos.
  • 1558 A.D. – The earliest maps accurately depicting the inland connection of the Lagos Lagoon and the Benin River is published in Portugal.
  • 1603 A.D. – Josua Ulsheimer, a German working for the Dutch Guinea Company, describes crossing into the Lagoons at Lagos and encountering a large Benin military camp. The Europeans conducted trade there and lent the Bini soldiers two cannons and assistance in their campaign against rebellious settlements. The Oba of Benin himself is reported as being present in the area. This is the earliest record of a significant settlement at Lagos.
  • 1621 A.D. – Castello Branco of Portugal describes the kingdom of Ijebu, situated between Lagos and Benin, as an important friend and trading partner to the Portuguese.
  • 1630’s A.D. – Dutch maps depict ‘Ichoo’ or Eko as an important trading town connected by way of Lagoons to Benin and the Niger.
  • Mid-1600’s A.D. – After a gradual shift the slave trade becomes the most important aspect of the European-Guinea Coast trade. The term ‘Slave Coast’ is derived from the importance of the Guinea Coast as a source for slaves for the Atlantic system.
  • 1668 A.D. – Dutch accounts claim that trade with Benin is restored and makes no mention of Ijebu except as a tributary to the Empire of Benin. This is likely the result of Benin’s expansionism and the Obas’ assertion of a royal monopoly over trade with the Europeans.
  • Late 1600’s A.D. – Dutch, British, Portuguese and French descriptions variously identify the Bini trading settlement at Lagos as Onim, Eko or Curamo with equally varied spællyng.
  • Late 1600’s A.D. – The gradual shift of the center of trade on he Guinea Coast away from Benin city continues. Coastal cities with better access routes become increasingly important. Benin remains the dominant military force and most cities int he region are, at least symbolically, subjects of Benin. A significant shift west towards Allada as a center of trade occurs late int he century.

Africa c. 1700

  • Early 1700’s A.D. – Lagos is a major supplier of salt and fish to inland populations including Benin. Lagos’ traders exchange these goods, as well as European goods, for slaves, cloth and gold in the interior.
  • Early 1700’s A.D. – Dutch and Portuguese reports claim that goods and traders from Lagos could be found in many cities on the Guinea coast suggesting Lagos’ growing importance as a regional trade center.
  • 1600’s to 1800’s A.D. – Oyo, an important empire of the interior, is a major supplier of slaves to the coasts. The lagoon traffic mostly consists of transporting the non-slave goods while riverine traffic and caravans bring slaves to Lagos and Porto Novo and other cities from the interior. Most slaves were taken from the interior as captives in seasonal campaigns by Benin, Oyo and Dahomey and other more minor powers.
  • 1715 A.D. – A Dutch account suggests that Bini and Oyo traders brought their slaves to Lagos for sale to the Europeans as part of an internal trade triangle between the interior, the coast and the major imperial cities of Benin and other states.
  • 1735 A.D. –  Local oral tradition confirms a permanent European presence in several major trading cities on the coast including Lagos and Badagry. These accounts include native renderings of European names which can be confirmed in European accounts.
  • 1765/66 A.D. – Lagos’ importance as a center of trade in confirmed by the volume of trade recorded as occurring there. In a two year span at least four major trade expeditions from various European countries ventured there. Many more were likely to have visited during this time as well.
  • 1770’s A.D. – A British trading company presence was established in Lagos primarily for the exchange of European goods for Ijebu cloth and slaves. The British apparently maintained a ‘factory’ in Lagos.
  • 1760’s A.D. – Local tradition states that Lagos began to attract a regular, major European trading presence beginning in the 1760’s. At this time Lagos would become the preeminent trading center on the Guinea Coast, eclipsing its rivals.
  • 1767 A.D. – Europeans record that Lagosian war canoes attempted to divert trade away from rival cities back to Lagos. This confirms that Lagos’ had risen to a position of major importance politically and commercially. Until this time Lagos was reliant on Benin for military support.
  • 1778 A.D. – British accounts complain that Lagos has a limited supply of slaves. The slaves sold in Lagos had to be gathered from distant places and a wide array of sources.
  • 1770’s A.D. – Dahomey and Oyo military campaigns exerted such pressure on cities like Porto Novo and Badagry that trade there diminished and ultimately ended. Lagos reportedly assisted the Dahomey and Oyo in their campaigns in an attempt to secure a monopoly on the Atlantic trade.
  • 1807 A.D. –  A Portuguese account confirms that the Dahomey and Oyo wars had diverted almost all trade to Lagos. Lagos reached the apex of its importance and power and was the primary exporter of slaves on the Guinea coast until 1861.
  • 1821 A.D. – A series of wars in Yoruba-land, directly North of Lagos and relatively nearby, grants Lagos an ample supply of slaves which further cements and expands Lagos’ control of the Atlantic trade on the Guinea Coast.
  • 1810’s A.D. – Lagos has grown from no more than 5,000 people to more than 10,000 people in the span of five years.
  • 1851 A.D. – Lagos’ importance as a center of the slave trade in West Africa comes to a close when the British invade and reinstate a deposed anti-Slavery Oba. Domestic slavery persists in Lagos for some time after this point. Lagos is eventually incorporated into the British colony.


  1. skjaldin says:

    This is really impressive. I really liked this page because it brought everything together.

Speak Your Mind