Only a few decades after the arrival of the
Europeans in the Bahamas in 1492, the indigenous
population had died as a result of slavery and disease
in the colonialist's path. From the 17th century, the
Bahamas was colonized by Englishmen. Piracy became a
dominant business. In the 1960s, the foundation of
Bahamas independence was laid.
The archipelago that today constitutes the Bahamas
was probably populated from the 500's by the
Arab-speaking people of Taino who came in canoes from
the islands of the Greater Antilles in the south. The
people, who in the Bahamas called themselves lucaya,
lived by agriculture and fishing. On October 12, 1492,
according to most researchers, Christofer Columbus
landed on one of the islands of the Bahamas, and for the
first time set foot in the "New World". It was probably
the island of San Salvador.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Bahamas, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Because the islands are barren and lack precious
minerals, the Spaniards showed little interest in the
indigenous people. However, the colonists needed more
slaves in the gold mines on the island of Hispaniola,
and Lucia was therefore forced to move there. As early
as 1520, the archipelago was de-populated.
For over a century, the Bahamas was mostly a terror
for seafarers with their reefs and grits. By the middle
of the 17th century, the islands were re-colonized, by
English Puritans from Bermuda. The economic activity was
dominated by piracy and wreckage. For over a decade in
the early 18th century, a "pirate republic" was
maintained and pure anarchy prevailed. Thousands of
pirates worked in Nassau before a British governor
regained control in 1718.
After the American War of Independence in the 1780s,
many royalist colonialists moved in from the United
States, and many of them brought slaves with them. The
population increased rapidly, and the proportion of
blacks in the population increased even faster. Many of
them were freed from slavery even before it was
completely abolished by the British in 1834. Around
5,000 Africans were also exempted during the decades
before by the British fleet from Spanish slave ships,
and ended up in the Bahamas.
The smugglers' paradise
The American Civil War 1861-1865 saw a boom as the
Bahamas became a hub for the trade of the blocked
southern states. After the war, half a century of
economic decline followed. Only during the period
1920-1933, when alcohol was banned in the United States,
did the next upswing come. The Bahamas became the spirit
of the smugglers.
During the Second World War, the military presence of
the Allies helped to strengthen the economy. In the
1950s, a conscious investment in tourism and finance was
initiated. The Bahamas became the most flourishing
tourist and tax haven in the entire Caribbean.
From the 1600s and over 300 years onwards, all
political and economic life was dominated by the white
elite who went by the name "Bay Street Boys" (after the
main business street in Nassau). The political
consciousness of the blacks was aroused after a violent
street protest in 1942, the so-called Burma Road riots.
The protest was about open wage discrimination against
black Bahamas when the United States was building a
military airport. In 1953, Bahamas first political
party, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), founded the
blacks. The white elite responded by forming the Bahamas
United Party (UBP).
In the 1960s, the foundation of Bahamas independence
was laid. In 1964, the colony gained internal autonomy.
After constitutional changes, elections were held in
1967 and the black majority for the first time formed
government. The Prime Minister became PLP leader Lynden
Pindling. "Bay Street Boys" saw their influence wane
when PLP won an even more convincing majority in a new
election the following year, 1968. What remained of UBP
then, together with defectors from PLP, formed a new
opposition party, the Free National Movement (FNM). In
the 1972 elections, however, the PLP retained its
majority in parliament and Pindling was able to bring
the country to independence more strongly the following