History of the Bahamas

The most initial appearance of humans in the islands, now known as The Bahamas, was around 2000 years ago in the 1st A.D. The first settlers of the islands were the Lucayans, an Arawakan-speaking Taino people, who came in about 500 and 800 AD from other Caribbean islands. Their ancestors came from South America, where Arawakan-language people were present in most areas, and particularly on the northeastern shore.

Ancient Era

In 400A.D., Taínos started crossing in dugout kayaks from present-day Cuba to the Bahamas. Proposed routes for the most primal migrations have been from Eastern Cuba to Great Inagua Island, and from central Cuba to Long Island (in the central Bahamas).

From the first colonization(s), the Lucayan extended throughout the Bahamas in around 800 years (c. 700 – c. 1500), increasing to a population of about 40,000. 

At the point of first European contact, the population density was most eminent in the south-central area of the Bahamas, descending towards the north, exhibiting the migration pattern and shorter occupation of the northern islands. Known Lucayan settlement sites are limited to the nineteen largest islands in the archipelago or humbler cays situated less than one km. from these lands. The population density in the southern-most Bahamas stayed lower, probably due to the drier climate there. 

Christopher Columbus

In 1492, Christopher Columbus reached the New World on the island of San Salvador. Motivated by the neighboring shallow sea, he described them as islands of the “Baja mar” (shallow sea), which has become The Islands Of The Bahamas. When he entered, there were about 40,000 Lucayans. Their friendly nature made the Lucayans easy victims for enslavement, however, and within 25 years, all of the Lucayans died due to the diseases, difficulties, and slavery they encountered. The islands were abandoned and banished for over 100 years afterward. With no gold, and the population killed, the Spanish completely discarded the Bahamas.


English Puritans recognized as “Eleutheran Adventurers” came to The Bahamas in 1649 to pursue religious freedom. Instead, they found food deficits. Captain William Sayles traveled to the American colonies for help and obtained supplies from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Upon his return, the settlers thanked them by sending them brasileto wood. The gains helped acquire land for what later became Harvard University.


During the early 1700s, many privateers and pirates arrived at The Bahamas, the most famous ones being Calico Jack and Blackbeard. There were also female pirates like Mary Read and Anne Bonny disguised as men. Soon after, pirates started looting the densely laden cargo ships. By 1718, England selected Woodes Rogers to work as the Royal Governor. His job was to return order. And he did. He granted pardon to those who surrendered. Those who resisted would be hanged. Three hundred pirates surrendered, and the rest, including Blackbeard, fled.

American Loyalists

More than a century later, American settlers loyal to Britain came to Eleuthera. Many brought their slaves as well as their construction skills, farming and shipbuilding expertise—this hugely influenced Eleutheran life. In 1783, they set their freedom and seized the retreat of the Spanish forces from the region without firing a shot.

Civil War

The Islands Of The Bahamas profited considerably from the U.S. Civil War. Britain’s textile business depended on Southern cotton; however, the Union blocked British ships from entering Southern ports. So barrier runners from Charleston met British vessels in the Bahamas and sold cotton for British goods. Upon their return, they traded their shipment for huge profits. The conclusion of the Civil War signalled the end of prosperity. 


On July 10, 1973, The Bahamas became a free and sovereign country, ending 325 years of peaceful British rule. 

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