The first known inhabitants of the Bahamas were The Lucayans (pronounced lu-KIE-an), a sect of The Taino people, who largely resided in the Caribbean during that time. The name "Lucayan" comes from the Taino phrase, "Lukku-Cairi," which means "people of the islands."
It is widely believed that the Lucayans arrived in the Bahamas from Hispanola and Cuba sometime between the years 500-800. From the time of the initial migration until around 1500, the population of Lucayans in The Bahamas swelled to about 40,000. Historians have described them as a gentle and peaceful people.
Recorded history of The Bahamas is said to have begun in 1942. Christopher Columbus set out from Spain with three ships - the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria - on a voyage looking for a direct route to Asia. Their plans were derailed when they came upon an island the Lucayan's called Guanahani. This island is what is now known as San Salvador and, while there is some controversy about this story, this landfall is seen by many historians as the official "discovery" of the Americas.
The islands were of little value to the Spanish and were used almost entirely as a source of slave labour. Over the next 30 years after Columbus' "discovery," all of the Lucayan people were sold into slavery and transported to other islands. Once the islands were no longer useful as a source of slave labour, they remained largely abandoned for about 130 years.
Slavery is a major part of Bahamian history. This tradition contributed greatly to the ethnic development of the country and many historical remnants of this time can still be seen throughout the islands. The majority of the enslaved Africans transported to The Bahamas were from the Congo and Nango tribes. One of the most common duties of the enslaved Africans brought to The Bahamas was to clear land and cultivate crops of cotton trees, an industry that was only mildly successful. The weather and the quality of the soil made it hard to grow tobacco and sugarcane and, with the economy seeing little growth, a number of the slaveowners eventually abandoned their land and slaves. These freed slaves made up a large part of the Bahamian population and often took the names of their slaveowners; names such as "Rolle" and "Adderley" that are still popular today. The Adelaide, Fox Hill, and Bain Town villages became home to the communities of these freed slaves.
Throughout the history of slavery in The Bahamas there are a number of notable, peaceful instances of resistance. In 1830, a 32 year-old enslaved man, named Pompey, led a protest against the attempted illegal transfer of a group of enslaved workers from Exuma to Cat Island. He and the group of enslaved Bahamians, hid in the bushes for a number of weeks before stealing a boat and sailing to Nassau to make their case to stay in Exuma to the Governor. The Governor at that time held anti-slavery views and granted their request. This is still seen as the first major victory for the enslaved Bahamians.
For many years during the late 1600s and early 1700s, The Bahamas was the site of lawless and seafaring pirate exploits. The islands' proximity to shipping routes and shallow reef-filled waters presented pirates with countless opportunities to commandeer and loot the ships of less experienced captains. In 1670, the city of Nassau was established as a commercial port and for around 40 years, infamous pirates such as Henry Morgan, Calico Jack, and even Blackbeard, made this their preferred place of unsavory business.
The Spanish troops retaliated against the pirates by attacking and effectively destroying Nassau in 1695. Still, pirating continued until 1718, when Woodes Rogers was appointed by the King of England to be the Royal Governor of the islands. He offered amnesty to all pirates who surrendered and threatened to hang those who didn't. After a small battle, 300 pirates laid down their weapons and the others fled.
Under the Treaty of Paris in 1783, The Bahamas was given over to the British by Spain, in exchange for East Florida. With this new ownership, American loyalists began to leave their country and moved to The Bahamas, seeking British protection. Many of these Americans were southern slave-owners, who brought their slaves with them.
Much later, The Bahamas would find themselves once again in a convenient geographic location. During the American Civil War and during the prohibition era of the 1920s, the islands experienced an economic boost by facilitating the transportation of illegal or expensive goods. Tourism did not become an economic power for the country until after the Second World War.
The Bahamas remained under British rule until July 10th, 1973, when it became fully independent as a Commonwealth nation. The Prime Minister at the time was Sir Lynden O. Pindling and shortly after independence, Sir Milo Butler was appointed the first Governor-General of the Bahamas (the official representative of the Monarchy).
Pingling, the leader of the Progressive Liberal Party, held his seat as Prime Minister for almost 20 years, during which he worked with his government to develop the Bahamas through tourism and foreign investment.