When Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, he made his first landfall in The Bahamas. It is not clear which island he landed upon, but it is known that he did not stay for long. Columbus claimed the islands for Spain, but The Bahamas did not provide the riches that the Spanish were looking for and their interest soon waned. Before the arrival of Columbus, the peaceful Lucayan Indians had the islands entirely to themselves. All perished from disease or the hardships of enslavement.
The English claimed the region by the mid 1600s, first settling on the island of Eleuthera. They survived by farming and fishing, a way of life that continued for centuries. Nassau harbour was the homeport of pirates and buccaneers whose activities flourished until the early 1700s. Following the restoration of order by the first Royal Governor, Nassau was alternately held by the Spanish, the British, the Americans, and ceded, finally, to Great Britain in 1783.
British loyalists settled the Bahamas following the American Revolution, bringing their slaves with them. The basis of the meager economy was fishing, sponging and farming. Brief periods of prosperity during these years were the result of blockade running during the American Civil War and rum running during Prohibition.
Populations grew slowly to their current level of just over 300,000. Education was largely unavailable, especially in the Out Islands. The status of women was slow to change, with women granted the right to vote only as recently as 1961.
During their years as a British Crown Colony, Bahamians began to oppose minority rule and won control of the government in 1967. Independence was achieved in 1973. Today, the Bahamas is a sovereign nation, fully self-governing and a member of The Commonwealth of Nations.
Black majority government paved the way for the growth of the middle class through widely available education for the first time. The first generation of educated Bahamians gravitated to the professions and became doctors, dentists, lawyers and accountants.
The African heritage of the Bahamian people is evident in art, music, dance and festivals. The English language is spoken throughout the islands in a lyrical dialect, laced with idioms, and varies from island to island. They are a wonderful people who are quick with a smile and hospitable to a fault.