The Beninese colonial court records around the abolition of slavery have been part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register since 1997. The consequences of transatlantic slavery are still visible in Benin. This project digitised court records relating to slavery in the Beninese national archives.
Benin’s coast was one of main embarking regions for the transatlantic slave trade. It has been calculated that around 1.6 million people were captured and sent to America by the Europeans in the region of the Bight of Benin. The National Archives of Benin hold a multitude of documents from both colonial and pre-colonial eras, including court records relating to slavery. The abolition of the slave trade had economic and social consequences on the different populations living in nineteenth-century West Africa. Every year, oceanic storms and subsequent floods threaten the neighbourhood of Porto-Novo where the archives are located. Moreover, the power grid of Porto-Novo is obsolete and portable generators are often cause of fires. The colonial court records were not classified in either chronological or thematic order, therefore it was impossible to choose which era to digitise. The project digitised 71,224 folios choosing the boxes which were most likely to hold documents relating to slavery and those which were most damaged. All members of staff were trained in digitisation methods, to ensure the digitisation proceeds in the future.