Medieval Kingdoms

Comparing The English and The Benin Medieval Kingdoms

This term, in ABC class, we are learning about the medieval period in history and in particular we are focusing on Medieval Britain. We know that other places around the world also have their own story about this period in time; we are therefore looking at how this period worked in Africa through the Great Kingdom of Benin. 

The King of Benin had similar responsibilities to the English King.  

1.     He had extensive political powers

2.   He made all the laws

3.   All the taxes were paid to him

4.   He owned all the land

5.   People needed permission from him to build houses on the land

6.   The Benin king controlled all trade and commerce in his kingdom.
Only the first born son of kings could inherit their father’s thrones and titles in both systems. 

Both kings built protections around their kingdoms to protect their land against foreign attacks and invasion. The English built fortified castles and moats; the Benin built walls and a moat around their city of power. 

Both kings were considered divine by their subjects.

Comparing The English and The Benin Medieval Kingdoms 

The order of hierarchy for both systems were: 

Medieval English
Medieval Benin
English King ruled all the country
King of Benin ruled all the country
·        Swore allegiance to the king
·        Held vast areas of land
·        Controlled the knights
Titled Chiefs
·        Uzama Chiefs installed new kings, defenders of Benin customs
·        Palace Chiefs looked after the palace
·        Town Chiefs ran the towns
Knights defended the country when needed.
A well trained army defended the country against aggressors.
Owed no land and paid taxes to the Barons
Ordinary citizens
Owed no land and paid taxes to the King
Serfs worked for the land they lived on and had no rights
Slaves worked for their keep and had no rights
A serf’s life was of little value  no more than that of an animal
Slaves were treated with kindness and respected as fellow humans.

Medieval Kingdoms
Palace People

Both the English and the Benin had lots of people who worked in the palace, these included: 

Chiefs or Lords

Palace officials

Family members,

Royal attendants


Story teller






Cleaners or Scullers 

Both Kingdoms commissioned specialists to do certain works:




Wood carvers and Stonemasons 

We found some differences between both kingdoms these were: 
The King of England married one wife whilst the King of Benin married several wives. One of them had several mistresses, can you guess which? 

The King of England had stone masons whilst the king of Benin had wood carvers and blacksmiths. Can you think of a reason for this difference? 

The barons and Lords fought in wars whilst the Chiefs of Benin did no fighting, their specialist soldiers did all the fighting. 

The king of Benin never left his place, whilst the King of England travelled throughout his land visiting his lords and ladies in their castles who normally prepare a feast for him during his visit. 

The English Monks wrote things down on paper, the Benin elders used oral stories to record their history. The Benin king commissioned blacksmiths to record great royal events in bronze plaques, now popularly known as the ‘Benin Bronzes’. 

In addition, the Benin King had sole power to decree the death penalty whilst a high court had that power in the English system. 

The Benin king owned all the land. Even though the English king owned all the land, he gave some out to his lords in return for service and over time ownership passed to them.  


1.    Discuss which system you would have liked to live under and why.

2.   Make a PowerPoint presentation to your class on one of the kingdoms.

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