The Siboney, Meso-Indians, who migrated into the Greater Antilles, were probably The Bahamas’ original inhabitants. Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the New World at San Salvador, a small island in the east central part of The Bahamas chain on October 12, 1492. The Spaniards named this part of the New World Bajar Mar (shallow seas). When Columbus purportedly ‘discovered’ the islands, he found Lucayans and called them Indians. They were in fact related to the neo-Indian Arawaks in the larger Caribbean Islands and practicing a Tainan culture. The Arawaks had originally come from the South American mainland. Being peaceful by nature they were forced northwards by the more warlike Caribs. It is believed that they arrived in The Bahamas between AD500 and AD600, settling from Cuba and Hispaniola. The Lucayans, as the Arawaks came to be known in The Bahamas, had no written language - only a spoken one. Eager to find gold, conquistadors followed Columbus. During this time, the Lucayans were wiped out by enslavement, disease and other hardships.
The Eleutheran Adventurers, led by William Sayle from Bermuda, settled in Eleuthera from 1647 to approximately 1658. New Providence, initially known as Sayle’s Island was settled about 1666. In 1670 The Lord Proprietors of England were granted the Bahamas by King Charles and the settlement on the harbour of Providence was named Charles Town. Pirates soon inhabited the new town, which was destroyed by the Spanish several times from 1684 to 1702. Governor Nicholas Trott renamed the town Nassau, one of the titles of the new king, William of Orange.
After the Queen Anne’s War ended in 1713, Nassau became a “Nest of Pirates” and became notorious for the drinking and wenching by Blackbeard, Charles Vane and Calico Jack Rackham. However the real pirate leaders were Henry Jennings and Benjamin Hornigold, who on his pardon assisted Woodes Rogers to expel pirates. Rogers, the first Royal Governor, was appointed 2 by King George I and his anti piratical zeal inspired the memorable motto for our country, EXPULSIS PIRATIS, RESTITUTA COMMERCIA (Piracy expelled, Commerce restored).
In 1783, The Bahamas was restored to Great Britain by treaty. Following the American Revolution, thousands of British Loyalists emigrated to The Bahamas, many bringing their black slaves with them. The Emancipation Act was designed to come into force on August 1, 1834, bringing freedom to the slaves, however it did not immediately give the slaves complete freedom. The ex-slaves did not become fully free until August 1, 1838 after an apprenticeship period which effected the transition between slavery and freedom..
In 1964 Great Britain granted the Bahamas internal autonomy. The Black Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won control of the government in general elections in 1967. The leader of the party Lynden O. Pindling, then became Prime Minister and remained in this position until August 1992 when the Free National Movement (FNM) won parliamentary elections and Hubert Ingraham became Prime Minister.