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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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