Porto-Novo (pôrˈtō nōˈvō) [key], city (1992 pop. 179,138), capital of Benin, S Benin, a port on Porto-Novo lagoon, an arm of the Gulf of Guinea. It is Benin's second largest city and an administrative and shipping center. However, it is less important commercially and industrially than Cotonou, to which it is connected by rail. Porto-Novo is the trade center for an agricultural region whose chief product is palm oil; the city's exports include palm oil, cotton, and kapok. Probably founded in the late 16th cent. as the capital of a small kingdom, Porto-Novo [new port] got its name from the Portuguese, who built a trading post there in the 17th cent. Africans were shipped as slaves from Porto-Novo to the Americas. The Porto-Novo kingdom accepted French encroachment in 1863 as a means of fending off Great Britain, which was active in nearby S Nigeria. However, the inland Dahomean kingdom of Abomey resented the French presence, and fighting broke out. In 1883 the French navy landed at Porto-Novo and Cotonou. Porto-Novo was incorporated into Dahomey colony and in 1900 was made its capital. The Institute of Higher Studies of Benin is in the city.
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