Ah, the Bahamas. It’s not surprising why most of us want to experience spending a vacation there with our loved ones. Considered the Land of Tropical Paradise, this is a place where you will definitely appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature as one of God’s amazing creations. If you’ve always been fascinated with this place, learning about the history of the Bahamas will make you fall in love with it more.
The Colorful History of the Bahamas:
- The first inhabitants of these islands were the Arawak Indians, also known as Lucayans. They were eventually wiped out because of slavery, disease, and other hardships brought about by colonization. Though gone, part of their language still lives today, having been absorbed into the English language. These include barbecue, cassava, maize, guava, and hurricane.
- The world’s most famous Italian explorer, none other than Christopher Columbus, was the one who “discovered” the Bahamas during an expedition financed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. They landed on one of the islands called Guanahani, the name that the natives gave the island. Columbus christened the island San Salvador, the name that the island still carries today.
- Christopher Columbus also gave the area a name: “Baja Mar” which means “shallow sea.” This was because of the sandy shoals and coral reefs that littered the area which made it difficult for ship navigation. Thus, the name Bahamas means “the islands of the shallow sea.”
- Religious freedom is a good reason as any to immigrate to another country. And this was the reason for the first colonization attempt on the natives of the islands. Some English Puritans from Bermuda moved to the Bahamas in 1648, seeking freedom from religious intolerance and persecution. They called themselves the Eleutheran Adventurers, settling on the island they later named as Eleuthera, which is Greek for freedom. The group was supported by fellow Puritans in Massachusetts and as a thank you, they sent some braselitto wood to Boston. This valuable gift was then sold and the money used to purchase land for Harvard College, which later became Harvard University.
- During the time of King Charles II of England, the Bahamas Islands were granted to the six Lord Proprietors of the Carolinas. They eventually built a city on the island of New Providence. In honor of King Charles II, the city was named Charles Town. However, after several years, it was raided and burned down by pirates. The city was then rebuilt and renamed Nassau, this time in honor of another king, King William III, who came from the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau.
- Fort Montagu, the oldest fort in the country and one of the most popular attractions in Nassau, was captured by Americans during the American War for Independence from Great Britain in 1776 with the utilization of just 8 colonial warships and 235 Marines. This was the first ever amphibious assault made in the history of the United States. However, in 1783, the fort was captured by Spain with a force of 5,000 men. The following year, American Loyalists led by Colonel Andrew Deveaux, recaptured the fort along with Fort Nassau from the Spanish.
- In 1892, an underwater telegraph cable was laid from Florida to Nassau, the first ever in Bahamas history. Cable Beach, a popular destination in Nassau, derives its name from this very cable that was set ashore there.
- The first underwater motion picture in the history of the Bahamas and the world was filmed near Nassau by one of the pioneers of undersea photography, the famous John Ernest Williamson. Williamson chose this location because of the fact that sunlight could penetrate 150 feet deep into the clear water surrounding the islands.
- The TRUE pirates of the Caribbean are the Bahamians. Smuggling was a driving force of the islands’ economy throughout its history. Many famous pirates such as Blackbeard and Henry Morgan used the islands as their base. The Bahamians also grew rich smuggling cotton to the British during the American Civil War. Their economy also boomed during the Prohibition because of their rum-running activities to the US.
- The Bahamas finally became an independent nation on July 10, 1973 after being under British rule for 325 years. It is now known to be one of the most politically stable nations in the world.
With a truly colorful past and its varied, exotic attractions, the Bahamas continues to fascinate travelers from all over the world.