Bahamas Airport

History of the Bahamas

The history of the Bahamas is colored with tales of piracy, intrigue, tragedy, and great achievement, all of which has had a hand in shaping the nation into what it is today. Like most islands in the Caribbean and surrounding areas, the first settlers in the history of the Bahamas were a group of South American Indians, the Lucayans, who arrived there as early as 300 AD. Unlike the rest of the West Indies, however, the history of the Bahamas never saw an influx of war-like Carib Indians, remaining isolated as a peaceful farming community until the first European visitors in the history of the Bahamas, in the late 15th century.

Christopher Columbus was the first European in the history of the Bahamas to step foot on the islands, landing on either San Salvador or Cat Island on his first voyage in 1492. Though Columbus continued on sailing through the Caribbean, the Spanish would later use the friendly Lucayans as workers in their mines on Hispaniola.

The first European settlement in the history of the Bahamas was founded on the island of Eleuthra in1648 by a group of English Puritans seeking religious freedom. Despite food and supply shortages and plenty of internal conflict, the Eleuthran colony eventually prospered after the establishment of a well-defended outpost on nearby Harbour Island.

The history of the Bahamas soon took an interesting turn as the Eleuthrans were joined by a more infamous bunch of Bahamian tenants. Almost every well-known Caribbean pirate made their home on the Bahamas at one point during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the islands being an ideal spot from which to surprise merchant ships passing through on their way to Europe. This period is one of the most mysterious and exciting periods in the history of the Bahamas, one that has lent itself to the creation of legends telling of sunken ships filled with gold and other riches.

Successive events going on in the mainland United States, just a short trip by boat from the Bahamas, had important effects on the history of the Bahamas beginning in the mid-18th century. The Revolutionary War of the 1770s and 80s led to a great influx of American settlers loyal to the British flag, who brought with them expertise in construction and agriculture. This first wave of new immigration had a big impact upon the history of the Bahamas and the way of life there. The American Civil War also figures prominently in the history of the Bahamas, as it was Bahamian ships that ensured that Great Britain's reliance on southern cotton would not be threatened by a northern blockade of the Confederate coastline. This period in the history of the Bahamas fuelled economic growth in leaps and bounds, which would eventually die down after the war until another American-inspired boom. Smuggling of alcohol during the Prohibition years brought enormous wealth to early 20th century history of the Bahamas, with runners doing brisk business in the whisky trade. The last major indirect American contribution to the history of the Bahamas came in 1961, when US citizens were barred from visiting Cuba and began flocking to the Bahamas instead. Tourism immediately began to play a very important role in the history of the Bahamas, so much so that island was granted limited government just a few later, and then full independence as a nation in 1973.

The history of the Bahamas since 1973 has seen the nation develop into a strong member of the international community. Tourism remains crucial to its economy and 300,000 people, accounting for half of its annual revenue and the creation of many jobs. Nearly four million tourists visit the Bahamas every year, taking advantage of its pleasant climate, natural beauty, and an exciting culture that has developed gradually throughout the colorful history of the Bahamas.

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