The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an independent English-speaking nation
in the West Indies. An archipelago of 700 islands and cays (which are small islands),
the Bahamas is located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida in the United States,
north of Cuba and the Caribbean, and west of the British dependency of the Turks
and Caicos Islands.
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, or 'large upper middle
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 sparsley 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 British Commonwealth of Nations.
Since the 1950s, the Bahamian economy has been based on the
twin pillars of tourism and financial services. Today, the
country enjoys the third highest per capita income in the