from 1825, owes its origin to the incessant inroads of the slave-hunters from Dahomey and Ibadan, which compelled the village populations scattered over the open country to take refuge in this rocky stronghold against the common enemy. Here they constituted themselves a free confederacy of many distinct tribal groups, each preserving the traditional customs, religious rites and even the very names of their original villages. Yet this apparently incoherent aggregate held its ground successfully against the powerful armies often sent against the place both by the king of Dahomey from the west, and by the people of Ibadan from the north-east.
The district of Egba, of which Abeokuta is the capital, has an estimated area of 3000 sq. m. and a population of some 350,000. It is officially known as the Abeokuta province of the Southern Nigeria protectorate. It contains luxuriant forests of palm-trees, which constitute the chief wealth of the people. Cotton is indigenous and is grown for export. The Egbas are enthusiastic farmers and have largely adopted European methods of cultivation. They are very tenacious of their independence, but accepted without opposition the establishment of a British protectorate, which, while putting a stop to inter-tribal warfare, slave-raiding and human sacrifices, and exercising control over the working of the laws, left to the people executive and fiscal autonomy. The administration is in the hands of a council of chiefs which exercises legislative, executive and, to some extent, judicial functions. The president of this council, or ruling chief—chosen from among the members of the two recognized reigning families—is called the alake, a word meaning “Lord of Ake,” Ake being the name of the principal quarter of Abeokuta, after the ancient capital of the Egbas. The alake exercises little authority apart from his council, the form of government being largely democratic. Revenue is chiefly derived from tolls or import duties. A visit of the alake to England in 1904 evoked considerable public interest. The chief was a man of great intelligence, eager to study western civilization, and an ardent agriculturist.
ABERAVON, a contributory parliamentary and municipal borough of Glamorganshire, Wales, on the right bank of the Avon, near its mouth in Swansea Bay, 11 m. E.S.E. of Swansea and 170 m. from London by rail. Pop. (1901) 7553. It has a station on the Rhondda and Swansea Bay railway and is also on the main South Wales line of the Great Western, whose station, however, is at Port Talbot, half a mile distant, on the eastern side of the Avon. The valley of the Avon, which is only some three miles long, has been from about 1840 a place of much metallurgical activity. There are tinplate and engineering works within the borough. At Cwmavon, 1½ m. to the north-east, are large copper-smelting works established in 1838, acquired two years later by the governor and Company of the Copper Miners of England, but now worked by the Rio Tinto Copper Company. There are also iron, steel and tinplate works both at Cwmavon and at Port Talbot, which, when it consisted only of docks, was appropriately known as Aberavon Port.
The town derives its name from the river Avon (corrupted from Avan), which also gave its name to a medieval lordship. On the Norman conquest at Glamorgan, Caradoc, the eldest son of the defeated prince, Lestyn ab Gwrgan, continued to hold this lordship, and for the defence of the passage of the river built here a castle whose foundations are still traceable in a field near the churchyard. His descendants (who from the 13th century onwards styled themselves De Avan or D'Avene) established, under the protection of the castle, a chartered town, which in 1372 received a further charter from Edward Le Despenser, into whose family the lordship had come on an exchange of lands. In modern times these charters were not acted upon, the town being deemed a borough by prescription, but in 1861 it was incorporated under the Municipal Corporations Act. Since 1832 it has belonged to the Swansea parliamentary district of boroughs, uniting with Kenfig, Loughor, Neath and Swansea to return one member; but in 1885 the older portion of Swansea was given a separate member.
ABERCARN, an urban district in the southern parliamentary division of Monmouthshire, England, 10 m. N.W. of Newport by the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 12,607. There are collieries, ironworks and tinplate works in the district; the town, which lies in the middle portion of the Ebbw valley, being situated on the south-eastern flank of the great mining region of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire.
ABERCORN, JAMES HAMILTON 1st Earl of (c. 1575–1618), was the eldest son of Claud Hamilton, Lord Paisley (4th son of James, 2nd earl of Arran, and duke of Chatelherault), and of Margaret, daughter of George, 6th Lord Seton. He was made sheriff of Linlithgow in 1600, received large grants of lands in Scotland and Ireland, was created in 1603 baron of Abercorn, and on the 10th of July 1606 was rewarded for his services in the matter of the union by being made earl of Abercorn, and Baron Hamilton, Mount Castle and Kilpatrick. He married Marion, daughter of Thomas, 5th Lord Boyd, and left five sons, of whom the eldest, baron of Strabane, succeeded him as 2nd earl of Abercorn. He died on the 23rd of March 1618. The title of Abercorn, held by the head of the Hamilton family, became a marquessate in 1790, and a dukedom in 1868, the 2nd duke of Abercorn (b. 1838) being a prominent Unionist politician and chairman of the British South Africa Company.
ABERCROMBIE, JOHN (1780–1844), Scottish physician, was the son of the Rev. George Abercrombie of Aberdeen, where he was born on the 10th of October 1780. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh, and after graduating as M.D. in 1803 he settled down to practise in that city, where he soon attained a leading position. From 1816 he published various papers in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, which formed the basis of his Pathological and Practical Researches on Diseases of the Brain and Spinal Cord, and of his Researches on the Diseases of the Intestinal Canal, Liver and other Viscera of the Abdomen, both published in 1828. He also found time for philosophical speculations, and in 1830 he published his Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers of Man and the Investigation of Truth, which was followed in 1833 by a sequel, The Philosophy of the Moral Feelings. Both works, though showing little originality of thought, achieved wide popularity. He died at Edinburgh on the 14th of November 1844.
ABERCROMBY, DAVID, a 17th-century Scottish physician who was sufficiently noteworthy a generation after the probable date of his death to have his Nova Medicinae Praxis reprinted at Paris in 1740. During his lifetime his Tuta ac efficax luis venereae saepe absque mercurio ac semper absque salivatione mercuriali curando methodus (1684) was translated into French, Dutch and German. Two other works by him were De Pulsus Variatione (London, 1685), and Ars explorandi medicas facultates plantarum ex solo sapore (London, 1685–1688). His Opuscula were collected in 1687. These professional writings gave him a place and memorial in A. von Haller’s Bibliotheca Medicinae Pract. (4 vols. 8vo, 1779, tom. iii. p. 619); but he claims notice rather by his remarkable controversial books in theology and philosophy than by his medical writings. Bred up at Douai as a Jesuit, he abjured popery, and published Protestancy proved Safer than Popery (London, 1686). But the most noticeable of his productions is A Discourse of Wit (London, 1685), which contains some of the most characteristic and most definitely-put metaphysical opinions of the Scottish philosophy of common sense. It was followed by Academia Scientiarum (1687), and by A Moral Treatise of the Power of Interest (1690), dedicated to Robert Boyle. A Short Account of Scots Divines, by him, was printed at Edinburgh in 1833, edited by James Maidment. The exact date of his death is unknown, but according to Haller he was alive early in the 18th century.
ABERCROMBY, PATRICK (1656–c. 1716), Scottish physician and antiquarian, was the third son of Alexander Abercromby of Fetterneir in Aberdeenshire, and brother of Francis Aber-