History of the Bahamas

When you’re learning about something new, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of relevant information available. This informative article will give you the basics on the history of the Bahamas.

Those of you not familiar with the history of the Bahamas now have at least a basic understanding of its history and culture.

Christopher Columbus’s first landfall in the New World in 1492 is believed to have been on the island of San Salvador (also called Watling’s Island), in the southeastern Bahamas. He encountered Taino (also known as Lucayan) Amerindians and exchanged gifts with them.

Taino Indians from both northwestern Hispaniola and northeastern Cuba moved into the southern Bahamas about the 7th century AD and became the Lucayans. They appear to have settled the entire archipelago by the 12th century AD. There may have been as many as 40,000 Lucayans living in the Bahamas when Columbus arrived.

The Bahamian Lucayans were deported to Hispaniola as slaves, and within two decades Taino societies ceased to exist as a separate population due to forced labour, warfare, disease, emigration and outmarriage.

Some say the name ‘Bahamas’ derives from the Spanish for “shallow sea”, baja mar. Others trace it to the Lucayan word for Grand Bahama Island, ba-ha-ma (“large upper middle land”).

After the Lucayans were destroyed, the Bahamian islands were deserted until the arrival of English settlers from Bermuda in 1650. Known as the Eleutherian Adventurers, these people established settlements on the island now called Eleuthera (from the Greek word for freedom).

The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1718 but remained sparsely settled until the newly independent United States expelled thousands of American Tories and their slaves. Many of these British Loyalists were given compensatory land grants in Canada and the Bahamas. Some 8,000 loyalists and their slaves moved to the Bahamas in the late 1700s from New York, Florida and the Carolinas.

The British granted the islands internal self-government in 1964 and, in 1973, Bahamians achieved full independence while remaining a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Since the 1950s, the Bahamian economy has prospered based on the twin pillars of tourism and financial services.

Despite this however, the country still faces significant challenges in areas such education, healthcare, correctional facilites and violent crime and illegal immigration. The urban renewal project has been luached in recent years to help impoverished urban areas in social decline in the main islands.

Today, the country enjoys the third highest per capita income in the western hemisphere.

 


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