Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travelers who described pre-colonial Dahomey all stressed that the Dahomans were dedicated, enthusiastic slavers. The kingdom's first historian, Archibald Dalzel, remarked, for example, that the Dahomans were “bred solely to war and rapine.” F.E. Forbes, the author of one of the best-known nineteenth-century accounts of the kingdom, in a similar vein, declared of Dahomey that “strange and contradictory as it may sound, this great nation is no nation, but a banditti.”
The views of these and other similarly-minded writers were, until the 1960s, everywhere accepted. In that decade, however, Isaac A. Akinjogbin published a series of works in which he gave an account of a long-lived Dahoman anti-slave trade tradition. Dahomey was, he claims, founded ca 1620 by a group of “highly principled and far-seeing” Aja in the Abomey area. These Aja founded the kingdom so as to be able to wage war effectively against those of their countrymen who traded in slaves.
Akinjogbin believed that the Dahomans spent about ninety years making war on their slave trading neighbors. It was, he claims, only in 1730 that the European slavers and their African allies were able to force the Dahomans to abandon their anti-slave trade campaign and to begin trading in slaves themselves. The very destructive wars of the 1720s, the wars which made Dahomey a major west African power, were, it seems undertaken as part of a virtuous, anti-slave trade crusade.
Although the Dahomans were forced to begin trading in slaves in 1730, they did not, Aknjogbin implies, entirely abandon their anti-slave trade ideals.