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Travel Guide 2   >   Bahamas   >   History

   
 

Bahaman History


The first definite evidence of human settlement in the Bahamas dates to the 7th century AD. A seafaring people, the Taino (who later came to be known to Europeans as "Lucayans") are known to have migrated into the archipelago from Hispaniola and Cuba.

Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the New World at San Salvador Island (also known as Watling's Island) in the southern Bahamas in 1492. There is believed to have been a population of around 40,000 Lucayans at the time of Columbus' landing, but within a quarter century, the entire people had been virtually eliminated by disease, warfare, and deportation and the imposition of slavery (many Lucayans were taken to Hispaniola as slaves).

English settlers began to arrive in the Bahamas in 1647, which were by that time, virtually unoccupied. The islands became a British crown colony in 1717, and following the American Revolution (1775 to 1783), around 8,000 loyalists and their slaves arrived in the islands. After the ending of slavery on the islands in 1834, the population was further boosted by a steady trickle of fugitive slaves from the United States.

Britain granted full internal self-government to the islands in 1964, and in 1973, the islands became fully independent (although remaining a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and with the British Queen, Queen Elizabeth II, as Queen of the Bahamas). The Bahamas joined CARICOM (at the time called "Caribbean Community and Common Market") in 1974, and after many years of prolonged economic growth, today has the 3rd highest GDP in the western hemisphere (after the United States and Canada).

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Books about Bahaman History


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The Migration of Peoples from the Caribbean to the Bahamas

By Keith L. Tinker

University Press of Florida
Paperback (210 pages)

The Migration of Peoples from the Caribbean to the Bahamas
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"Creatively drawing on documentary sources and oral histories, Tinker offers invaluable insights into the social, political, and economic forces that have helped shape the history of West Indian migrations to the Bahamas--a country that has often been overlooked in Caribbean migration studies."--Frederick H. Smith, author of Caribbean Rum

Although the Bahamas is geographically part of the West Indies, its population has consistently rejected attempts to link Bahamian national identity to the histories of its poorer Caribbean neighbors. The result of this attitude has been that the impact of Barbadians, Guyanese, Haitians, Jamaicans, and Turks and Caicos islanders living in the Bahamas has remained virtually unstudied.


In this timely volume, Keith Tinker explores the flow of peoples to and from the Bahamas and assesses the impact of various migrant groups on the character of the islands’ society and identity. He analyzes the phenomenon of "West Indian elitism" and reveals an intriguing picture of how immigrants--both documented and undocumented--have shaped the Bahamas from the pre-Columbian period to the present.


The result is the most complete and comprehensive study of migration to the Bahamas, a work that reminds us that Caribbean migration is about more than just the people who leave the islands for the continents of North America and Europe.

Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People: Volume One: From Aboriginal Times to the End of Slavery

By Michael Craton

Brand: University of Georgia Press
Released: 1999-04-01
Paperback (496 pages)

Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People: Volume One: From Aboriginal Times to the End of Slavery
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From two leading historians of Bahamian history comes this groundbreaking work on a unique archipelagic nation. Islanders in the Stream is not only the first comprehensive chronicle of the Bahamian people, it is also the first work of its kind and scale for any Caribbean nation. This comprehensive volume details the full, extraordinary history of all the people who have ever inhabited the islands and explains the evolution of a Bahamian national identity within the framework of neighboring territories in similar circumstances.

Divided into three sections, this volume covers the period from aboriginal times to the end of formal slavery in 1838. The first part includes authoritative accounts of Columbus’s first landfall in the New World on San Salvador island, his voyage through the Bahamas, and the ensuing disastrous collision of European and native Arawak cultures. Covering the islands’ initial settlement, the second section ranges from the initial European incursions and the first English settlements through the lawless era of pirate misrule to Britain’s official takeover and development of the colony in the eighteenth century. The third, and largest, section offers a full analysis of Bahamian slave society through the great influx of Empire Loyalists and their slaves at the end of the American Revolution to the purported achievement of full freedom for the slaves in 1838.

This work is both a pioneering social history and a richly illustrated narrative modifying previous Eurocentric interpretations of the islands’ early history. Written to appeal to Bahamians as well as all those interested in Caribbean history, Islanders in the Stream looks at the islands and their people in their fullest contexts, constituting not just the most thorough view of Bahamian history to date but a major contribution to Caribbean historiography.

Abaco, the History of an Out Island and Its Cays

By Steve Dodge

White Sound Press
Paperback (270 pages)

Abaco, the History of an Out Island and Its Cays
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This expanded and updated third edition has new sections, and many revisions. This is the only general, comprehensive history of Abaco, Bahamas available; it covers from the geologic formation of the Bahama Banks to the middle 1990s. It is easy and interesting to read and reads more like a novel than a history text. Cover art by Randy Curry,; illustrations by Laurie Jones. 112 illustrations, photographs, and maps. Appendix on boat building in Abaco.

Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People: Volume Two: From the Ending of Slavery to the Twenty-First Century

By Michael Craton

University of Georgia Press
Released: 2000-09-29
Paperback (584 pages)

Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People: Volume Two: From the Ending of Slavery to the Twenty-First Century
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The present work concludes the important and monumental undertaking of Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People, creating the most thorough and comprehensive history yet written of a Caribbean country and its people. In the first volume Michael Craton and Gail Saunders traced the developments of a unique archipelagic nation from aboriginal times to the period just before emancipation. This long-awaited second volume offers a description and interpretation of the social developments of the Bahamas in the years from 1830 to the present.

Volume Two divides this period into three chronological sections, dealing first with adjustments to emancipation by former masters and former slaves between 1834 and 1900, followed by a study of the slow process of modernization between 1900 and 1973 that combines a systematic study of the stimulus of social change, a candid examination of current problems, and a penetrating but sympathetic analysis of what makes the Bahamas and Bahamians distinctive in the world.

This work is an eminent product of the New Social History, intended for Bahamians, others interested in the Bahamas, and scholars alike. It skillfully interweaves generalizations and regional comparisons with particular examples, drawn from travelers' accounts, autobiographies, private letters, and the imaginative reconstruction of official dispatches and newspaper reports. Lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs and original maps, it stands as a model for forthcoming histories of similar small ex-colonial nations in the region.

Sweet Island Life: The History of Cat Island

By Nevelon Theophilus Gaitor

Basik Studios
Paperback (64 pages)

Sweet Island Life: The History of Cat Island
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Island life is so sweet. Growing up on the island is like a child’s first glimpse of the stars at midnight. The Bahamas in the early sixties, seventies and eighties was a village bursting with excitement. You can tell by listening to the old folks reminiscing about the good old days. We went crabbing in the bush, climbing the coconut tree, picked sapodilla and coco plumbs from the wild and made pepper sauce from the garden in the back yard. Yet we forget, the mouth-watering sea grapes and berries from the wild. Eating freshly baked potato bread with light brown spicy stew fish was a delight, especially on a Sunday morning. Learning the art of swimming in the pond and jumping from the rocky edge of ocean holes brought the family together with joy. Living on the island was not a bed of roses for some families. There were tough times because the mail boat did not come to the island for more than two weeks sometimes. The island had no electricity nor water supply in settlements along the coast line. Life was simply primitive, but the ability to persevere as a people strengthen the spirit of hope. The Bush Medicine kept the family healthy. You could not resist the smell of bush tea early in the mornings just before day break. Pain and discomfort at the end of the day depended primarily on your choice of bush medicine. Going to school and learning the golden rules cannot be overlooked because it was our passport to a greater and successful future. Mama would say, “Come here boy! You think you bad. Wait until your Papa come, he will beat you bad”. Each settlement on the island, people came together for a common goal. Attending church three times on a Sunday was the way of life for the old and young. People of the religious faith joined their voices with hymns of praise that echoed from the valley to the rugged hills of Viage Green, the original name for the settlement of Dumfries. Anglicans, Baptists and Church of God parishioners celebrated joyously at festivals. Some of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my childhood life are connected in part to the stories you will read about. I hope you enjoy my vatae of life on Cat Island.

History of the Bahamas

By Michael Craton

San Salvador Press
Paperback (332 pages)

History of the Bahamas
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Book by Craton, Michael

Bahama Saga: The Epic Story of the Bahama Islands

By Peter Barratt

Brand: AuthorHouse
Paperback (360 pages)

Bahama Saga: The Epic Story of the Bahama Islands
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BAHAMA SAGA is a chronicle of the human presence on a unique archipelago of the Americas. The story takes its title from a few invented characters and the romantic and beautiful country of seven hundred sub-tropical islands. The confetti of Bahamian islands has, at different times, been a locus for the three races of the planet. After the original Amerindian inhabitants perished, the Bahamas remained uninhabited for nearly 150 years until people from Bermuda - largely of English and African stock - re-settled the islands commencing in 1648. Not long afterwards many more Africans were brought to the Bahamas in bondage. Their descendants today hold the destiny of the islands in their hands. The geographical location of the Bahamas allowed the islands to play a brief, but important part in the history of the modern world. The eastern islands protrude out into the Atlantic Ocean so as to make them one of the nearest parts of the Americas to Europe and it was here that an explorer from Europe made a historic landfall at what, for him at least, was a 'New World' It was just over five hundred years ago that Christopher Columbus in 1492 'sailed the ocean blue' The islands on the western side are a mere 50 miles from the United States. Throughout time, events on the North American continent have had a major affect upon the history of the Bahama Islands as this well-written and intriguing story relates.


 
 
 

 
 
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