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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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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.

Bahamas (Discovering the Caribbean: History, Politics, and Culture)

By Colleen Madonna Flood Williams

Mason Crest
Library Binding (64 pages)

Bahamas (Discovering the Caribbean: History, Politics, and Culture)
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Introduces the Bahamas, describing its history, politics, culture, and geography.

A History of the Bahamas

By Michael CRATON

Collins
Hardcover

A History of the Bahamas
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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.

History of the Bahamas

By Michael Craton

Brand: San Salvador Press
Paperback (332 pages)

History of the Bahamas
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Book by Craton, Michael

The Bahamas in American History

By Keith Tinker

Xlibris, Corp.
Paperback (170 pages)

The Bahamas in American History
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Race and Class in the Colonial Bahamas, 1880-1960

By Gail Saunders

University Press of Florida
Released: 2017-10-16
Paperback (400 pages)

Race and Class in the Colonial Bahamas, 1880-1960
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In this one-of-a-kind study of race and class in the Bahamas, Gail Saunders shows how racial tensions were not necessarily parallel to those across other British West Indian colonies but instead mirrored the inflexible color line of the United States. Proximity to the U.S. and geographic isolation from other British colonies created a uniquely Bahamian interaction among racial groups. Focusing on the post-emancipation period from the 1880s to the 1960s, Saunders considers the entrenched, though extra-legal, segregation prevalent in most spheres of life that lasted well into the 1950s.

Saunders traces early black nationalist and pan-Africanism movements, as well as the influence of Garveyism and Prohibition during World War I. She examines the economic depression of the 1930s and the subsequent boom in the tourism industry, which boosted the economy but worsened racial tensions: proponents of integration predicted disaster if white tourists ceased traveling to the islands. Despite some upward mobility of mixed-race and black Bahamians, the economy continued to be dominated by the white elite, and trade unions and labor-based parties came late to the Bahamas. Secondary education, although limited to those who could afford it, was the route to a better life for nonwhite Bahamians and led to mixed-race and black persons studying in professional fields, which ultimately brought about a rising political consciousness. Training her lens on the nature of relationships among the various racial and social groups in the Bahamas, Saunders tells the story of how discrimination persisted until at last squarely challenged by the majority of Bahamians.

The Windsors I Knew: An American Private Secretary's Memoir of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor Nassau, Bahamas 1940-1944

By Jean D. Hardcastle-Taylor

Independently published
Paperback (156 pages)

The Windsors I Knew: An American Private Secretary s Memoir of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor Nassau, Bahamas 1940-1944
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This memoir of an American private secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor provides a vivid, first-hand account of their day- to-day lives during their time as Royal Governor and First-Lady of the Bahamas during World War II. It is not based upon the second-hand accounts of others published years after the deaths of the famous and controversial royal couple, the same couple which is portrayed as unsupportive of British war efforts in the Netflix Series "The Crown". Jean D. Hardcastle-Taylor (nee Drewes) actually lived with the former British King and his American wife in Government House, Nassau, from 1940 to mid-1944. She observed her royal employers with a keen eye, and gives witness to their abiding love and affection for one another as they worked as a team (WE) to improve the living conditions of the Bahamian people and lead numerous projects in support of British war efforts. The author produced her original typescript about 1965 in her home in Santa Cruz County, California, while shepherding her four children through high school. This was just over 20 years after she had left the employ of the Windsors in Nassau, and during a period which saw the publication of many second hand accounts of the royal couple's life together. Most of these newspaper and magazine articles, and books, had a loose relationship with actual facts or truth. As she typed away over a period of several months , she was often heard saying "I am going to set the record straight about what the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were really like". In 1968 at her eldest son's graduation from college, she asked him for a bit of help in getting her work published. Michael said "sure Mom", but the Vietnam War was being waged and a long naval career got in the way of keeping this promise. As fate would have it, Michael's wife Gloria spotted an article in the San Diego newspaper in 2009 about a large conference of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor Historical Society in nearby Coronado, CA. They gathered up Jean's typescript and Bahamas-era Windsor memorabilia and literally crashed the event. Michael made two presentations to the large group over a weekend. There they met the conference's keynote speaker, the eminent English royal historian and author Hugo Vickers, who agreed to edit the work once Michael integrated much of the author's fascinating memorabilia. The work was completed in 2016 with Hugo's expert help leading to publication of the first edition. Hugo added the first sentence to the first chapter which reads "A girl never knows how her life can suddenly change". As you can read, this was certainly true. Jean Drewes seemed destined for a job only dreamed of by most executive secretaries in 1940's New York. Tipped off about a prestigious position outside the country, she sought and landed her dream job working for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. What would it be like to work for the former English King who gave up his throne to marry a twice-divorced American socialite? What was the Duke really like? What qualities did the Duchess possess to cause him to give up the Empire to marry her? What went on within Government House as they managed their daily life and the social and economic challenges of a small tropical colony of the British Empire? As their private secretary, Jean Drewes and the Duchess planned and coordinated the couple's official and social responsibilities. She traveled with them throughout the Bahamas and their several visits to America and Canada. She was responsible for processing all communications between the Duke in Nassau and his government and family in Britain during the war. Hugo also wrote the introduction to the book where he writes, "Here is a vivid, first-hand of their day-to-day lives. As such, it has value. Jean Drewes has observed her royal employers with a keen eye. I am sure it will be read with great interest in many corners of the world."


 
 
 

 
 
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