African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 172

Full Length Research Paper

Igue festival and the British invasion of Benin 1897: The violation of a people’s culture and sovereignty

Charles .O. Osarumwense
  • Charles .O. Osarumwense
  • Department of History and International Studies, University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.
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  •  Accepted: 18 December 2013
  •  Published: 31 March 2014


The Benin Kingdom was a sovereign state in pre-colonial West Africa. Sovereign in the sense that the Kingdom conducted and coordinated its internal and external affairs with its well structured political, social-cultural and economic institutions. One remarkable aspect of the Benin culture was the Igue festival. The festival was unique in the sense that it was a period when the Oba embarks on spiritual cleansing and prayers to departed ancestors for continued protection and growth of the land. The period of the festival was uncompromising and was spiritually adhered to. It was during this period that the British attempted to visit the Oba. This attempted visit to the land was declined by the Oba. An imposition of the visit by the British Crown resulted in the ambushed and killing of British officers. This incident marked the road map to the British invasion of the Kingdom in 1897. This study presents the sovereign nature of the Benin Kingdom, its social-cultural and economic uniqueness rooted in the belief and respect of deities. The paper further argues that the event of 1897 was a clear cut violation of the sovereignty, culture and territorial rights of the Benin Kingdom under a crooked agreement called the Gallwey Treaty of 1892. The Gallwey Treaty was a treaty entered into between the sovereigns of Benin and Britain for trade relations.           
Key words: Igue festival, British invasion, violation, culture and sovereignty