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History of the Bahamas

Far back in time Bahamas came to notice to the invaders as well as traders and explorers being situated very close to Florida which always docked a lot of ships from around the world. Many of these people came and settled down in the islands and gradually made it the place it is today.

Lucayan Era
As early as 300 to 400 A.D people inhabited the place and they had probably arrived here from Cuba. These people, back in time, depended on the sea for food as is proved by the archeological studies. A subgroup of the Arawaks, called the Lucayan Indians settled down over here back in the 10th century. In order to avoid their cannibal enemies - the Carib Indians, the Lucayans came and settled down in this placed and they were basically farmers. They lived in thatch huts and used stones to make tools. This group was in fact much advanced politically, religiously and even socially.

Around forty thousand Lucayans inhabited the island of the Bahamas when Christopher Columbus arrived on San Salvador in 1492. However, many historians think that Columbus landed on Cat Island and not on San Salvador.

In a very cruel manner Columbus made slaves out of these gentle people and had them sent to his mines to Hispaniola. Within twenty-five years of his arrival the entire tribe was wiped out owing disease and slavery.

First Settlement
In search for religious freedom a group of English puritans arrived on the islands in the year 1648 and they gave the island its present name. But they soon experienced a redundancy of food and thus soon they began to split into various communities. Captain William Sayles, the leader of the groups sailed for the American colonies and there he found proper supply of food and other survival kits that was needed back on the island. In order to guard their colonies from being invaded by Spanish troops they established a more secure settlement, called the Harbour Island.

Piracy on the Bahamas
pirate flagsIt is the 1600s to the 1700s that is considered as the golden age of the pirates. The Islands of the Bahamas was used as a port back then by Sir Francis Drake and Blackbeard at various points of time. Because of the existence of so many complex channels throughout the island this place was the heaven of pirates and for their marauding ships. Another advantage that the Bahamas provided to them is the fact that the island also ported many traveler and trade ships which gave them the chance to steal from these ships.

Often times it even happened that the same privateers worked on both sides of the law and they even at times attacked only the enemy ships at the request of the Government. Sometimes they used to send back the spoils of the attack to the monarch. But the pirates usually attacked just about any ship that came their way.

There are a lot of myths and legends that are now related to the infamous individual pirates and therefore the historical records turn out to be very blurry and obscure.

Blackbeard
Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard is the most tarnished pirate of all time. Even physically he was a large man and not only the ones that he attacked but also his entire crew was terrified of him. After weaving hemp in his long beard he used to light it up and thus seeing this smoky figure of his from afar along with the sight of the many weapons that they used the merchant ships used to surrender even without a fight. Being fair after surrender took place Blackbeard took their money and the entire property on the ships but used to let everyone leave without shedding a single drop pf blood. Whenever he was shown resistance he used to either kill that person or abandon him on some deserted island.

Finally in 1718 Blackbeard faced a British ship that intentionally trapped him and after fighting a fierce battle he expired. Blackbeard ruled the Bahamas for about five years and in this period of time he had captured around forty ships. Even today his legend is famous all around the islands.

Calico Jack
piratesJohn Rackham, the pirate, is famous as Calico Jack because he always wore striped pants and coats. He was particularly famous being linked with two female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Charles Vanes used to be a pirate captain of the infamous ship Treasure but he miserably failed to steal from a French man-of-war and this made Calico Jack very angry and so he protested along with many other members of the crew and they did succeed to overthrow the former pirate captain. Later on Calico Jack had his boss sent on his way along with his ardent supporters. This is the story that depicts how this pirate came into power.

On the island of New Providence Calico Jack met Anne Bonny who was then persuaded by him to leave her family and accompany him on his ship dressed as a man which she did. Mary Read was already a part of his crew disguised as a man.

In the year 1720 Royal Governor Woodes Rogers' pirate-hunters ship attacked Calico Jack's ship and after a long fight he was captured and soon sentenced to death.

Sir Henry Morgan
A welsh privateer, Henry Morgan exploited the Spanish to a great degree and this way he soon became very famous. In 1670 he and his crew attacked Panama City and this raid was extremely successful so much so that it got him his knighthood.

Later on in his life he became very rich by being an owner of a sugar plantation in Port Royal, Jamaica, where he had moved in and there he also became the deputy governor of Port Royal.

Morgan's Bluff is the name of the highest point on the island of Andros and the name has been given as a tribute to the memory of this famous pirate. There is a myth that Henry Morgan had one time lured a ship to the reefs and then looted it after it got wrecked.

Treasure
The prey for the pirates was all those merchant ships that were not only slow moving but full of riches from all over the Central and South America. The pirates used to first remove the stolen cargo and then later on hide it somewhere or even bury it someplace within the islands of the Bahamas.

Even today people believe that there are places in the Islands of the Bahamas where some treasure is still hidden. For instance, William Catt, a British pirate is thought to have buried his stolen treasure on the Cat Island which was named after him and similarly Sir Henry Morgan hid it somewhere around Andros.

Paradise
The paradise for the pirates as well the privateers was the city of Nassau which was well sheltered and an all-weather harbor. The city was established as a port in the year 1670 but soon it became the haunt of lawless men. The city became a very important base for the pirates and privateers and even the wreckers who used false signals to bring in ships onto the reefs and then as the ships got wrecked they used to steal all its treasures.

The famous pirates like Blackbeard, Henry Morgan and Calico Jack Rackham attacked hundreds of Spanish ships for almost forty long years and to take revenge Spanish troops destroyed the town in the year 1695. But within two years the settlers again had the city rebuilt again for the same purpose. This time the Spanish navies joined the French forces to wipe out the town once again in the year 1703. They had to take a step as the British privateers and pirates continued to raid their merchant ships. But as looting these merchant ships was very profitable as business the privateers had the town rebuilt soon again.

Finally in the year 1718 the King of England appointed Woodes Rogers as Royal Governor of the islands when he kept hearing complaints of piracy and he wanted to restore order on the islands. Rogers was a former privateer himself and he offered official pardon to all those who would surrender and he promised that these people would not be hanged. However those who would not surrender would be given a sentence to be hanged and his ship would be sunk. After this announcement a brief battle ensued and about three hundred pirates surrendered fighting in vain with Roger's ships. The rest of the pirates and privateers had to flee.

Women Pirates (Anne Bonny and Mary Read)
Anne Bonny left her husband, James Bonny when she was persuaded to do so by Calico Jack. She dressed herself as a man and joined the crew of the infamous pirate and thus began her pirating days. She was as fearless and as ruthless as any other pirate in his crew.

On the same ship there was another female pirate as well - again disguised as a man - Mary Read. She had always wanted to be an adventurer and so she had joined in the crew long time back. When Anne Bonny joined the crew Mary Read had already been the regiment of a man-of-war, had been part of the crew on a privateer and had been a sailor on a shipping vessel.

When the ship was attacked by Rogers the entire crew was drunk but the two women fought off the attackers bravely. They did not however succeed in winning the fight and so everybody was tried for piracy and later sentenced to death. Anne and Mary both claimed pregnancy to avoid an immediate hanging. Later on Mary died in her prison cell from a fever but Anne gave birth to her baby. She was miraculously granted a reprieve for some unknown reason. After she was let out she managed to disappear and was never heard of again.

The Loyalists
After almost a century came in some of the others who are known as the "loyalists". These were the American colonists who still remained loyal to their country of origin - Britain. They brought along with them the slaves they held in America along with the Colonial building skills. The place also became very rich in agriculture and ship building because of the skills that these loyalists brought in with them when they came along.

Aided by the South Carolina militia the Loyalists tried to go hard on their independence back in the year 1783. So they took up arms against the Spanish forces and made them step back from the entire region as far as Nassau and Bermuda. But during this event not a single shot was fired.

Civil War and Prohibition
During the U.S Civil War, from the years 1861 to 1865 the economy of the Bahamas improved and benefited greatly. The textile industry of the United Kingdom depended solely on Southern cotton and so it always supported the Confederacy. But the British ships could never reach any of the Southern ports as the Union made sure to blockade any of the British ships. The boats from the Southern ports traveled all the way from Charleston to Nassau - that is about 560 miles in order to meet the British ships to trade cotton for goods that the British ships brought in. they used to sell their products for huge profits.

But however as soon as the Civil War ended came a very bad time for The Islands Of The Bahamas as the economy began to go down and this continued until 1919. With alcohol being prohibited in the 14th Amendment Act of the United States, to the islands returned smuggling with renewed force. An important item that was a vital British export for the islands of Bahamas was Scotch whisky and for that reason the colonial government greatly expanded Prince George Wharf in Nassau. He wanted to accommodate the huge flow of alcohol. Later on the prohibition ended in 1934. Along with this event the collapse of the sponge harvesting industry which was also really profitable, caused the devastation of the economy to The Islands Of The Bahamas.

From the mid-19th century the government began to support the tourism industry and thus this new prosperous industry came into being in these beautiful islands. It was then that began the construction of the hotels and began the steamship service. During the 1920's when many rich American tourists came along to these islands after the Prohibition, tourism began to flourish all over again. The demand for food, lodging as well as that of the other items increased with the growth in the number of tourists. Then followed the banking industry which also boomed as new hotels were built and came into being new warehouses and bard and wharves on The Islands Of The Bahamas.

The last century
flag of bahamasEconomically the country was devastated right after the Prohibition and up until the 1940's. During the Second World War the islands served as an air and sea way-station in the Atlantic and this made many people employed again as the construction of the base needed workers.

The economic growth of the Islands again started in the year 1961. In this year Cuba was closed to American tourists and so tourists began to come to these islands. Tourism flourished to a great degree and with the new policies of the government regarding tourism the number of visitors each year increased considerably and mostly because the islands are situated so close to the United States. Nassau's harbor was built in a way that it could support up to six cruise ships at a single time and a bridge was built in to connect Nassau to Paradise Island.

The Islands Of The Bahamas was granted limited self-government in the year 1964 by the British Government. And in the year 1969 the colony of The Bahamas became a Commonwealth. On the 10th of July, 1973 the island of Bahamas became a nation and this day is celebrated as the Bahamian Independence Day.


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