Countless slaves were shipped to the New World from this West African state during the 18th and 19th centuries. After independence from France in 1960, the country—then called Dahomey—was plagued by many coups; in 1975 a Marxist military government renamed the nation Benin. About 42 African ethnic groups live in Benin, with most people living in the south. In 1989 the government renounced Marxism—since then it has held numerous free elections. The agricultural economy is based largely on cotton.