Much of The Bahamas history can be credited back to geography. In 1492 when Christopher Columbus first landed in the New World on the island of San Salvador in the eastern of the Bahamas, he gave the name “Baja Mar” which meant shallow water or sea because of the observed shallow sea around the island, throughout centuries the name evolved to The Islands of the Shallow Sea, Islands of the Bahamas, and The Bahamas which is now the commonly used name.
The Islands of the Bahamas caught a lot of attention for explorers, settlers, invaders, and traders since it was a well-traveled shipping channel and was located near Florida. All these people formed part in the rich Bahamas history that made the country what it is today.
As indicated in current archaeological excavations, people lived as early as 300 to 400 AD in the Bahamas Islands. These residents may have came from Cuba and relied mainly on the ocean for food. The Bahamas history tells that during the 10th century, a subgroup of the Arawaks called the Lucayans settled in the Bahamas islands. They had left the Lesser Antilles to keep away from their enemies, the Carib Indians, who were known to be cannibals and fierce warriors. The Lucayans were a peaceful group of farmers who lived in thatch huts with their own made pottery and used stone tools. This group was socially, politically and religiously advanced. Upon the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the island in 1492, there were about forty thousand Lucayans living in the Bahamas islands. The Lucayans being gentle natured were taken advantage of by Spanish slave traders who later captured native Lucayan and shipped them off to Hispaniola to work in gold mines. Within the twenty five years from Columbus’ arrival, all Lucayan perished.
A group of Puritan religious refugees know as the Eleutheran Adventurers founded the first permanent European settlement in the Bahamas and gave Eleuthera Island its name. Similar groups of colonizers formed governments in the Bahamas, but the secluded cays protected pirates and wreckers throughout the 17th century, these were the golden age for pirates among most well known was Sir Francis Drake and Blackbeard.
More than a century later, another major arrival of American loyalists landed in Eleuthera bringing with them slaves, money, Colonial building skills, agricultural and shipbuilding expertise, and the cotton industry which all became key influences in Eleutheran life. From 1861 until 1865 was the Bahamas’ boom on its economy which was benefited greatly from the U.S. Civil War. When the civil war ended, it ended the prosperity for the Bahamas islands too until 1919 when the U.S passed the 14th amendment prohibiting alcohol which brought back smuggling to the island. With the prohibition ending in 1934, a collapse in the economy brought devastation to the Bahamas islands. Tourism industry began in the mid-19th century from the governments support for constructing hotels and financially supported steamship service.
Each island of the Bahamas has its own story that greatly contributes to the rich and vibrant Bahamas history that has brought it to its fame and popularity today. The wealthy marine life, beautiful clear waters, endless white sand beaches, rich culture, all adds up to a great Bahamas history.