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The Bahamas

Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Forward, Upward, Onward, Together"
Anthem: March On, Bahamaland

Royal anthemGod Save the Queen a
and largest city
Official languages English
Ethnic groups ([1])
83% Afro-Bahamian
15% White / Mixed
0.7% not stated
0.6% Asian
0.3% other
Demonym Bahamian
Government Unitary parliamentary
constitutional monarchy[2][3]
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Governor-General Marguerite Pindling
 -  Prime Minister Perry Christie
Legislature Parliament
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house House of Assembly
 -  from the United Kingdom 10 July 1973[4] 
 -  Total 13,878 km2 (160th)
5,358 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 28%
 -  2013 estimate 319,031[5] (177th)
 -  1990 census 254,685
 -  Density 23.27/km2 (181st)
60/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $11.055 billion[6]
 -  Per capita $31,382[6]
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $8.043 billion[6]
 -  Per capita $22,832[6]
Gini (2001) 57[7]
HDI (2013) Steady 0.789[8]
high · 51st
Currency Bahamian dollar (BSD)
(US dollars widely accepted)
Time zone EST (UTC−5)
 -  Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−4)
Drives on the Right- and left-hand traffic
Calling code +1 242
ISO 3166 code BS
Internet TLD .bs

The Bahamas , officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is an island country consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean; north of Cuba and Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti); northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands; southeast of the U.S. state of Florida and east of the Florida Keys. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. The designation of "Bahamas" can refer to either the country or the larger island chain that it shares with the Turks and Caicos Islands. As stated in the mandate/manifesto of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Bahamas territory encompasses 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of ocean space.

Originally inhabited by the Lucayan, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people, the Bahamas were the site of Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492. Although the Spanish never colonized the Bahamas, they shipped the native Lucayans to slavery in Hispaniola. The islands were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648, when English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.

The Bahamas became a British Crown colony in 1718, when the British clamped down on piracy. After the American War of Independence, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists in the Bahamas; they brought their slaves with them and established plantations on land grants. Blacks comprised the majority of the population from this period. The Bahamas became a haven: the Royal Navy resettled Africans here liberated from illegal slave ships; American slaves and Black Seminoles escaped here from Florida; and the government freed American slaves carried on United States domestic ships that had reached the Bahamas due to weather. Slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Today the descendants of slaves and free Africans make up nearly 90 percent of the population; issues related to the slavery years are part of society.

The Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1973, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch. In terms of gross domestic product per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas (following the United States and Canada). Its economy is based on tourism and finance.[9]


  • Etymology of name 1
  • History 2
    • 18th–19th centuries 2.1
    • 20th century 2.2
    • Post-World War II 2.3
  • Geography and climate 3
    • Climate 3.1
  • Government and politics 4
    • Administrative divisions 4.1
    • Military 4.2
    • National flag 4.3
    • Coat of arms 4.4
    • National flower 4.5
  • Economy 5
  • Ethnic groups 6
    • Afro-Bahamians 6.1
    • White Bahamians 6.2
  • Demographics 7
    • Largest cities 7.1
  • Sport 8
  • Culture 9
  • Representation in other media 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • Bibliography 13
  • Further reading 14
    • General history 14.1
    • Economic history 14.2
    • Social history 14.3
    • Further reading 14.4
  • External links 15

Etymology of name

The name Bahamas is derived from the Spanish baja mar ("shallow water or sea" or "low tide") reflecting the shallow waters of the area. Alternatively it may originate from Guanahani, a local name of unclear meaning.[10] In English, the Bahamas is one of only two countries whose official name begins with the word "the", along with The Gambia.[11]


Lucayan skull. These Taíno people were the original inhabitants of the Bahamas.

Taino people moved into the uninhabited southern Bahamas from Hispaniola and Cuba around the 11th century AD, having migrated there from South America. They came to be known as the Lucayan people. An estimated 30,000 Lucayan inhabited the Bahamas at the time of Christopher Columbus' arrival in 1492.

Columbus' first landfall in the New World was on an island he named San Salvador (known to the Lucayan as Guanahani). Some researchers believe this site to be present-day San Salvador Island (formerly known as Watling's Island), situated in the southeastern Bahamas. An alternative theory holds that Columbus landed to the southeast on Samana Cay, according to calculations made in 1986 by National Geographic writer and editor Joseph Judge, based on Columbus' log. Evidence in support of this remains inconclusive. On the landfall island, Columbus made first contact with the Lucayan and exchanged goods with them.

The Spanish forced much of the Lucayan population to Hispaniola for use as forced labour. They suffered from harsh conditions, but most died from contracting new diseases to which they had no immunity. The population of the Bahamas was severely diminished.[12] Half of the Taino died from smallpox epidemics after Columbus's arrival in the Bahamas, as they had no immunity to the new disease.[13]

Historians had long believed that Europeans generally did not begin to colonize the islands until the mid-17th century. However, recent research suggests that there may have been attempts to settle the islands by groups from Spain, France, and Britain, as well as by other Amerindians. In 1648, the Eleutherian Adventurers, led by William Sayle, migrated from Bermuda. These English Puritans established the first permanent European settlement on an island which they named Eleuthera—the name derives from the Greek word for freedom. They later settled New Providence, naming it Sayle's Island after one of their leaders. To survive, the settlers salvaged goods from wrecks.

In 1670 King Charles II granted the islands to the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas in North America. They rented the islands from the king with rights of trading, tax, appointing governors, and administering the country.[14] In 1684 Spanish corsair Juan de Alcon raided the capital, Charles Town (later renamed Nassau). In 1703 a joint Franco-Spanish expedition briefly occupied the Bahamian capital during the War of the Spanish Succession.

18th–19th centuries

Sign at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park commemorating hundreds of African-American slaves who escaped to freedom in the early 1820s in the Bahamas.

During proprietary rule, the Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard. To put an end to the 'Pirates' republic' and restore orderly government, Britain made the Bahamas a crown colony in 1718 under the royal governorship of Woodes Rogers. After a difficult struggle, he succeeded in suppressing piracy.[15] In 1720, Rogers led local militia to drive off a Spanish attack.

During the American War of Independence, the islands were a target for American naval forces under the command of Commodore Ezekial Hopkins. US Marines occupied the capital of Nassau for a fortnight.

In 1782, following the British defeat at Yorktown, a Spanish fleet appeared off the coast of Nassau, and the city surrendered without a fight. Spain returned possession of the Bahamas to Britain the following year, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Before the news was received, however, the islands were recaptured by a small British force led by Andrew Deveaux.

After American independence, the British resettled some 7,300 Loyalists with their slaves in the Bahamas, and granted the planters with land to help compensate for losses on the continent. These Loyalists, who included Deveaux, established plantations on several islands and became a political force in the capital. European Americans were outnumbered by the African-American slaves they brought with them, and ethnic Europeans remained a minority in the territory.

In 1807, the British abolished the slave trade, followed by the United States the next year. During the following decades, the Royal Navy intercepted the trade and resettled thousands of Africans liberated from slave ships in the Bahamas.

In the 1820s during the period of the Seminole Wars in Florida, hundreds of American slaves and Black Seminoles escaped from Cape Florida to the Bahamas. They settled mostly on northwest Andros Island, where they developed the village of Red Bays. From eyewitness accounts, 300 escaped in a mass flight in 1823, aided by Bahamians in 27 sloops, with others using canoes for the journey. This was commemorated in 2004 by a large sign at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.[16][17] Some of their descendants in Red Bay continue Black Seminole traditions in basketmaking and grave marking.[18]

The United States' National Park Service, which administers the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, is working with the African Bahamanian Museum and Research Center (ABAC) In Nassau on development to identify Red Bays as a site related to American slaves' search for freedom. The museum has researched and documented the Black Seminoles' escape from southern Florida. It plans to develop interpretive programs at historical sites in Red Bay associated with the period of their settlement in the Bahamas.[19]

In 1818,[20] the Home Office in London had ruled that "any slave brought to the Bahamas from outside the British West Indies would be manumitted." This led to a total of nearly 300 slaves owned by U.S. nationals being freed from 1830 to 1835.[21] The American slave ships Comet and Encomium used in the United States domestic coastwise slave trade, were wrecked off Abaco Island in December 1830 and February 1834, respectively. When wreckers took the masters, passengers and slaves into Nassau, customs officers seized the slaves and British colonial officials freed them, over the protests of the Americans. There were 165 slaves on the Comet and 48 on the Encomium. Britain finally paid an indemnity to the United States in those two cases in 1855, under the Treaty of Claims of 1853, which settled several compensation cases between the two nations.[22][23]

Slavery was abolished in the British Empire on 1 August 1834. After that British colonial officials freed 78 American slaves from the Enterprise, which went into Bermuda in 1835; and 38 from the Hermosa, which wrecked off Abaco Island in 1840.[24] The most notable case was that of the Creole in 1841: as a result of a slave revolt on board, the leaders ordered the American brig to Nassau. It was carrying 135 slaves from Virginia destined for sale in New Orleans. The Bahamian officials freed the 128 slaves who chose to stay in the islands. The Creole case has been described as the "most successful slave revolt in U.S. history".[25]

These incidents, in which a total of 447 slaves belonging to U.S. nationals were freed by 1842, increased tension between the United States and Great Britain. They had been cooperating in patrols to suppress the international slave trade. But, worried about the stability of its large domestic slave trade and its value, the United States argued that Britain should not treat its domestic ships that came to its colonial ports under duress, as part of the international trade. The United States worried that the success of the Creole slaves in gaining freedom would encourage more slave revolts on merchant ships.

20th century

In August 1940, after his abdication, the Duke of Windsor was installed as Governor of the Bahamas, arriving with his wife, the Duchess. Although disheartened at the condition of Government House, they "tried to make the best of a bad situation".[26] He did not enjoy the position, and referred to the islands as "a third-class British colony".[27]

He opened the small local parliament on 29 October 1940. The couple visited the "Out Islands" that November, on Axel Wenner-Gren's yacht, which caused some controversy.[28] The British Foreign Office strenuously objected to the trip because they had been advised (mistakenly) by United States intelligence that Wenner-Gren was a close friend of the Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring of Nazi Germany.[28][29]

The Duke was praised for his efforts to combat poverty on the islands, but a 1991 biography by Philip Ziegler described him as contemptuous of the Bahamians and other non-white peoples of the Empire. He was praised for his resolution of civil unrest over low wages in Nassau in June 1942, when there was a "full-scale riot."[30] Ziegler said that the Duke blamed the trouble on "mischief makers – communists" and "men of Central European Jewish descent, who had secured jobs as a pretext for obtaining a deferment of draft".[31]

The Duke resigned the post on 16 March 1945.[32][33]

Post-World War II

Sign at the entrance of the Sir Roland Symonette Park in North Eleuthera district commemorating Sir Roland Theodore Symonette, the Bahamas' first Premier.

Modern political development began after the Second World War. The first political parties were formed in the 1950s. The British Parliament authorized the islands as internally self-governing in 1964, with Sir Roland Symonette, of the United Bahamian Party, as the first Premier.

In 1967, Lynden Pindling (Sir Lynden from 1983), of the Progressive Liberal Party, became the first black Premier of the majority-black colony; in 1968 the title of the position was changed to Prime Minister. In 1973, the Bahamas became fully independent as a Commonwealth realm, retaining membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. Sir Milo Butler was appointed the first Governor-General of the Bahamas (the official representative of Queen Elizabeth II) shortly after independence.

Based on the twin pillars of tourism and offshore finance, the Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s. Significant challenges in areas such as education, health care, housing, international narcotics trafficking, and illegal immigration from Haiti continue to be issues.

The College of the Bahamas is the national higher education/tertiary system. Offering baccalaureate, masters and associate degrees, COB has three campuses, and teaching and research centres throughout the Bahamas. The College is in the process of becoming the University of the Bahamas as early as 2012.

Geography and climate

The Bahamas from space. NASA Aqua satellite image, 2009

The country lies between latitudes 20° and 28°N, and longitudes 72° and 80°W.

In 1864, the Governor of the Bahamas reported that there were 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 rocks in the colony.[34]

The closest island to the United States is Bimini, which is also known as the gateway to the Bahamas. The island of Abaco is to the east of Grand Bahama. The southeasternmost island is Inagua. The largest island is Andros Island. Other inhabited islands include Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Exuma and Mayaguana. Nassau, capital city of the Bahamas, lies on the island of New Providence.

All the islands are low and flat, with ridges that usually rise no more than 15 to 20 m (49 to 66 ft). The highest point in the country is Mount Alvernia (formerly Como Hill) on Cat Island. It has an elevation of 63 metres (207 ft).

Damaged homes in the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

To the southeast, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and three more extensive submarine features called Mouchoir Bank, Silver Bank, and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation of the Bahamas.


The climate of the Bahamas is tropical savannah climate or Aw according to Köppen climate classification. As such, there has never been a frost or freeze ever reported in the Bahamas, although every few decades low temperatures can fall into the 3–5 °C (37–41 °F) range for a few hours when a severe cold outbreak comes off the North American landmass. Otherwise, the low latitude, warm tropical Gulf Stream, and low elevation give the Bahamas a warm and winterless climate. There is only an 8 °C difference between the warmest month and coolest month in most of the Bahama Islands. Like most tropical climates, seasonal rainfall follows the sun, and summer is the wettest season. The Bahamas are often sunny and dry for long periods of time, and average more than 3,000 hours of sunlight annually.

Tropical storms and hurricanes affect the Bahamas. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew passed over the northern portions of the islands, and Hurricane Floyd passed near the eastern portions of the islands in 1999.

Climate data for Nassau
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 25.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 21.4
Average low °C (°F) 17.3
Precipitation mm (inches) 39.4
Avg. precipitation days 8 6 7 8 10 15 17 19 17 15 10 8 140
Mean monthly sunshine hours 220.1 220.4 257.3 276.0 269.7 231.0 272.8 266.6 213.0 223.2 222.0 213.9 2,886
Source: UN),[35] Hong Kong Observatory (sun only)[36]
Average Sea Temperature
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
73 °F

23 °C

73 °F

23 °C

75 °F

24 °C

79 °F

26 °C

81 °F

27 °C

82 °F

28 °C

82 °F

28 °C

82 °F

28 °C

82 °F

28 °C

81 °F

27 °C

79 °F

26 °C

75 °F

24 °C

Government and politics

Bahamian Parliament, located in downtown Nassau

The Bahamas is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy headed by Queen Elizabeth II in her role as Queen of the Bahamas. Political and legal traditions closely follow those of the United Kingdom and the Westminster system. The two main parties are the Free National Movement and the Progressive Liberal Party. The Bahamas is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations as a Commonwealth realm, retaining the Queen as head of state (represented by a Governor-General).

Tourism generates about half of all jobs. The Bahamas attracted 5.8 million visitors in 2012, more than 70 percent of which were cruise visitors. Banking and international financial services are the second largest economic sector, accounting for about 15 per cent of GDP.

Legislative power is vested in a bicameral parliament, which consists of a 38-member House of Assembly (the lower house), with members elected from single-member districts, and a 16-member Senate, with members appointed by the Governor-General, including nine on the advice of the Prime Minister, four on the advice of the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, and three on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The House of Assembly carries out all major legislative functions. As under the Westminster system, the Prime Minister may dissolve Parliament and call a general election at any time within a five-year term.

The Prime Minister is the head of government and is the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Assembly. Executive power is exercised by the Cabinet, selected by the Prime Minister and drawn from his supporters in the House of Assembly. The current Governor-General is Dame Marguerite Pindling, and the current Prime Minister is The Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, P.C., M.P..

The Bahamas has a two-party system dominated by the centre-left Progressive Liberal Party and the centre-right Free National Movement. A handful of splinter parties have been unable to win election to parliament. These parties have included the Bahamas Democratic Movement, the Coalition for Democratic Reform, Bahamian Nationalist Party and the Democratic National Alliance.

Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. Although the Bahamas are not geographically located in the Caribbean, it is a member of the Caribbean Community. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Jurisprudence is based on English law.

Administrative divisions

Districts of the Bahamas

The districts of the Bahamas provide a system of local government everywhere except New Providence (which holds 70% of the national population), whose affairs are handled directly by the central government. In 1996, the Bahamian Parliament passed "The Local Government Act" to facilitate the establishment of Family Island Administrators, Local Government Districts, Local District Councillors, and Local Town Committees for the various island communities. The overall goal of this act is to allow the various elected leaders to govern and oversee the affairs of their respective districts without the interference of Central Government. In total, there are 38 districts, with elections being held every five years. There are also one hundred and ten Councillors and two hundred and eighty-one Town Committee members to correspond with the various districts.[37]

Each Councillor or Town Committee member is responsible for the proper use of public funds for the maintenance and development of their constituency.

The Bahamas uses left hand drive traffic rules throughout the Commonwealth.

The districts other than New Providence are:


The Bahamas does not have an army or an air force. Its military is composed of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (the RBDF), the navy of The Bahamas. Under The Defence Act, the RBDF has been mandated, in the name of The Queen, to defend the Bahamas, protect its territorial integrity, patrol its waters, provide assistance and relief in times of disaster, maintain order in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies of The Bahamas, and carry out any such duties as determined by the National Security Council. The Defence Force is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)'s Regional Security Task Force.

The RBDF came into existence on 31 March 1980. Their duties include defending The Bahamas, stopping drug smuggling, illegal immigration, poaching, and providing assistance to mariners. The Defence Force has a fleet of 26 coastal and inshore patrol craft along with 6 aircraft and over 1500 personnel including 65 officers and 74 women.

National flag

National Flag of The Bahamas

The colours embodied in the design of the Bahamian flag symbolise the image and aspirations of the people of The Bahamas; the design reflects aspects of the natural environment (sun, sand, and sea) and the economic and social development. The flag is a black equilateral triangle against the mast, superimposed on a horizontal background made up of two colours on three equal stripes of aquamarine, gold and aquamarine.

The symbolism of the flag is as follows: Black, a strong colour, represents the vigour and force of a united people, the triangle pointing towards the body of the flag represents the enterprise and determination of The Bahamian people to develop and possess the rich resources of sun and sea symbolized by gold and aquamarine respectively. In reference to the representation of the people with the colour black, some white Bahamians have joked that they are represented in the thread which "holds it all together."[38]

There are rules on how to use the flag for certain events. For a funeral the national flag should be draped over the coffin covering the top completely but not covering the bearers. The black triangle on the flag should be placed over the head of the deceased in the coffin. The flag will remain on the coffin throughout the whole service and removed right before lowered into the grave. Upon removal of the flag it should be folded with dignity and put away. The black triangle should never be displayed pointing upwards or from the viewer's right. This would be a sign of distress.[39]

Coat of arms

Bahamian Coat of Arms

The coat of arms is like a theme statement that describes the Bahamian people. The coat of arms of the Bahamas contains a shield with the national symbols as its focal point. The shield is supported by a marlin and a flamingo, which are the national animals of the Bahamas. The flamingo is located on the land, and the marlin on the sea, indicating the geography of the islands.

On top of the shield is a conch shell, which represents the varied marine life of the island chain. The conch shell rests on a helmet. Below this is the actual shield, the main symbol of which is a ship representing the Santa María of Christopher Columbus, shown sailing beneath the sun. Along the bottom, below the shield appears a banner upon which is scripted the national motto:[40]

"Forward, Upward, Onward Together."

National flower

The yellow elder

The yellow elder was chosen as the national flower of the Bahamas because it is native to the Bahama Islands, and it blooms throughout the year.

Selection of the yellow elder over many other flowers was made through the combined popular vote of members of all four of New Providence's garden clubs of the 1970s—the Nassau Garden Club, the Carver Garden Club, the International Garden Club, and the Y.W.C.A. Garden Club.

They reasoned that other flowers grown there—such as the bougainvillea, hibiscus, and poinciana—had already been chosen as the national flowers of other countries. The yellow elder, on the other hand, was unclaimed by other countries (although it is now also the national flower of the United States Virgin Islands) and also the yellow elder is native to the family islands.[41]


One of the most prosperous countries in the West Indies, The Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. Tourism as an industry not only accounts for over 60 percent of the Bahamian GDP, but provides jobs for more than half the country's workforce.[42] After tourism, the next most important economic sector is financial services, accounting for some 15% of GDP.

Cruise ships in Nassau Harbour

The government has adopted incentives to encourage foreign financial business, and further banking and finance reforms are in progress. The government plans to merge the regulatory functions of key financial institutions, including the Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Central Bank administers restrictions and controls on capital and money market instruments. The Bahamas International Securities Exchange consists of 19 listed public companies. Reflecting the relative soundness of the banking system (mostly populated by Canadian banks), the impact of the global financial crisis on the financial sector has been limited.

Graphical depiction of the Bahamas' product exports in 28 color-coded categories.

The economy has a very competitive tax regime. The government derives its revenue from import tariffs, license fees, property and stamp taxes, but there is no income tax, corporate tax, capital gains tax, value-added tax (VAT), or wealth tax. Payroll taxes fund social insurance benefits and amount to 3.9% paid by the employee and 5.9% paid by the employer.[43] In 2010, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 17.2%.[5]

By the terms of GDP per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas.[44]

Ethnic groups


Afro-Bahamian children at a local school.

Afro-Bahamians are Bahamian nationals whose primary ancestry was based in West Africa. The first Africans to arrive to The Bahamas were freed slaves from Bermuda; they arrived with the Eleutheran Adventurers looking for new lives.

Since the colonial era of plantations, Afro-Bahamians have been the largest ethnic group in the Bahamas; in the 21st century, they account for some 85% of the country's population.[5] The Haitian community is also largely of African descent and numbers about 80,000. Concerned that Haitians were competing for jobs with Bahamians, in late 2014, the Bahamian government started deporting illegal Haitian immigrants to their homeland. [45]

White Bahamians

According to the 2010 Census of Bahamas, a total of 16,598 Whites live here.[1] European Bahamians, or Bahamians of European descent, numbering about 38,000,[46] are mainly the descendants of the English Puritans and American Loyalists who arrived in 1649 and 1783, respectively.[47] They form the largest minority group in The Bahamas, making up some 12% of the population.[5] Many Southern Loyalists went to Abaco, which is about 50% white.[48]

A small portion of the White Bahamian population is descended from Greek labourers who came to help develop the sponging industry in the 1900s. They make up less than 1% of the nation's population, and have preserved their distinct Greek Bahamian culture.

Given intermarriage and interracial unions over the centuries, most families have branches, and even immediate family members, spanning the entire spectrum of skin color among ‘ light’, 'brown' and ‘unequivocally dark.’[49] This reflects the many degrees of African and European ancestry over centuries of mixed-race unions.

In the Bahamas, the term Bahamian is most commonly used. The people do not identify as West Indian.


The Bahamas has an estimated population of 382,825, of which 25.9% are under 14, 67.2% 15 through 64, and 6.9% over 65. It has a population growth rate of 0.925% (2010), with a birth rate of 17.81/1,000 population, death rate of 9.35/1,000, and net migration rate of −2.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population.[50]

The infant mortality rate is 23.21 deaths/1,000 live births. Residents have a life expectancy at birth of 69.87 years: 73.49 years for females, 66.32 years for males. The total fertility rate is 2.0 children born/woman (2010).[5]

The ethnic makeup of the country is African 85%, European 12%, Asian and Latin Americans 3%.[5] The islands are predominantly Christian, with Baptists representing 35.4% of the population, Anglican 15.1%, Roman Catholic 13.5%, Pentecostal 8.1%, Church of God 4.8%, Methodist 4.2%, other Christian 15.2%,[5] other Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%[51] The "other" category includes Jews, Muslims, Baha'is, Hindus, Rastafarians, and practitioners of Obeah.[52]

The official language of the Bahamas is English; many residents speak the Bahamian Dialect.[53] According to 1995 estimates 98.2% of the adult population is literate.

Largest cities


Sport in the Bahamas is a significant part of Bahamian culture. The national sport is sloop sailing[54] where Durward Knowles and Sloan Farrington picked up the first Olympic medal (bronze) for the Bahamas at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Durward Knowles also captured the country's first Olympic Gold medal along with Cecil Cooke during the 1964 Summer Olympics in Sailing.[55]

However the most popular spectator sports are those imported from United States such as Bahamas is not apart of the West Indies Board, so players are not eligible to play for the West Indies cricket team.The late 1970s saw the game begin to decline in the country as teachers, who had previously come from the United Kingdom with a passion for cricket were replaced by teachers who had been trained in the United States. The Bahamian Physical education teachers had no knowledge of the game and instead taught track & field, basketball, baseball, softball,[60] volleyball[61] and soccer[62] where primary and high schools compete against each other. Today cricket is still enjoyed by a few locals and immigrants in the country usually from Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and Barbados. Cricket is played on Saturdays and Sundays at Windsor Park and Haynes Oval.

Dexter Cambridge, Rick Fox and Ian Lockhart are a few Bahamians who joined Bahamian Mychal Thompson of the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA ranks.[63] Over the years American football has become much more popular than association football, though not implemented in the high school system yet. Leagues for teens and adults have been developed by the Bahamas American Football Federation.[64] However association football, commonly known as soccer in the country, is still a very popular sport amongst high school students. Leagues are governed by the Bahamas Football Association. Recently the Bahamian government has been working closely with the Tottenham Hotspur F.C. to promote the sport in the country as well as promoting the Bahamas in the European market. In 2013 the Spurs became the first Premier League club to play an exhibition match in the Bahamas to face the Jamaica national football team. Joe Lewis the owner of the Tottenham Hotspur club is based in the Bahamas.[65]

Other popular sports are swimming,[66] tennis[67] and boxing[68] where Bahamians have enjoyed some level of success at the international level. Other sports such as golf,[69] rugby league,[70] rugby union[71] and beach soccer[72] are considered growing sports. Athletics commonly known as track and field in the country is the most successful sport by far amongst Bahamians. Bahamians have a strong tradition in the sprints and jumps. Track and field is probably the most popular spectator sport in the country next to basketball due to their success over the years. Bahamians have gone on to win numerous track and field medals at The Olympic Games, IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Commonwealth Games and Pan American Games. Frank Rutherford is the first athletics olympic medalist for the country. He won a bronze medal for triple jump during the 1992 Summer Olympics.[73] Pauline Davis-Thompson, Debbie Ferguson, Chandra Sturrup, Savatheda Fynes and Eldece Clarke-Lewis teamed up for the first athletics Olympic Gold medal for the country when they won the 4x100m relay at the 2000 Summer Olympics. They are affectionately know as the "Golden Girls.[74] Tonique Williams-Darling became the first athletics individual Olympic gold medalist when she won the 400m sprint in 2004 Summer Olympics.[75]


Junkanoo celebration in Nassau

In the less developed outer islands (or Family Islands), handicrafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called "straw", is plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items. Another use is for so-called "Voodoo dolls", even though such dolls are the result of the American imagination and not based on historic fact.[76]

A form of folk magic (obeah) is practiced by some Bahamians but, mostly the Haitian-Bahamian community, mainly in the Family Islands (out-islands) of The Bahamas.[77] The practice of obeah is, however, illegal in the Bahamas and punishable by law.[78]

Junkanoo is a traditional Bahamian street parade of music, dance, and art held in Nassau (and a few other settlements) every Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Junkanoo is also used to celebrate other holidays and events such as Emancipation Day.

Regattas are important social events in many family island settlements. They usually feature one or more days of sailing by old-fashioned work boats, as well as an onshore festival.

Many dishes are associated with Bahamian cuisine, which reflects Caribbean, African and European influences. Some settlements have festivals associated with the traditional crop or food of that area, such as the "Pineapple Fest" in Gregory Town, Eleuthera, or the "Crab Fest" on Andros. Other significant traditions include story telling.

Bahamians have created a rich literature of poetry, short stories, plays, and short fictional works. Common themes in these works are (1) an awareness of change, (2) a striving for sophistication, (3) a search for identity, (4) nostalgia for the old ways, and (5) an appreciation of beauty. Some contributing writers are Susan Wallace, Percival Miller, Robert Johnson, Raymond Brown, O.M. Smith, William Johnson, Eddie Minnis, and Winston Saunders.[79][80]

Bahamas culture is rich with beliefs, traditions, folklore and legend. The most well-known folklore and legends in Bahamas includes Lusca in Andros Bahamas, Pretty Molly on Exuma Bahamas, The Chickcharnies of Andro Bahamas, and the Lost City of Atlantis on Bimini Bahamas.

Representation in other media

See also


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  21. ^ Horne, p. 103
  22. ^ Horne, p. 137
  23. ^ [1]Register of Debates in Congress, Gales & Seaton, 1837, The section, "Brigs Encomium and Enterprise", has a collection of lengthy correspondence between US (including M. Van Buren), Vail, the U.S. charge d'affaires in London, and British agents, including Lord Palmerston, sent to the Senate on February 13, 1837, by President Andrew Jackson, as part of the continuing process of seeking compensation.
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  34. ^ Albury, Paul (1975). The Story of The Bahamas. London: MacMillan Caribbean, p. 6
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  36. ^ "Climatological Information for Nassau, Bahamas" (1961–1990) – Hong Kong Observatory
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  • Horne, Gerald (2012). Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation. NYU Press.  
  • Higham, Charles (1988). The Dutchess of Windsor: The Secret Life. McGraw Hill.  

Further reading

General history

  • Cash Philip et al. (Don Maples, Alison Packer). The Making of The Bahamas: A History for Schools. London: Collins, 1978.
  • Miller, Hubert W. The Colonization of The Bahamas, 1647–1670, The William and Mary Quarterly 2 no.1 (January 1945): 33–46.
  • Craton, Michael. A History of The Bahamas. London: Collins, 1962.
  • Craton, Michael and Saunders, Gail. Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992
  • Collinwood, Dean. "Columbus and the Discovery of Self," Weber Studies, Vol. 9 No. 3 (Fall) 1992: 29–44.
  • Dodge, Steve. Abaco: The History of an Out Island and its Cays, Tropic Isle Publications, 1983.
  • Dodge, Steve. The Compleat Guide to Nassau, White Sound Press, 1987.

Economic history

  • Johnson, Howard. The Bahamas in Slavery and Freedom. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishing, 1991.
  • Johnson, Howard. The Bahamas from Slavery to Servitude, 1783–1933. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1996.
  • Alan A. Block. Masters of Paradise, New Brunswick and London, Transaction Publishers, 1998.
  • Storr, Virgil H. Enterprising Slaves and Master Pirates: Understanding Economic Life in the Bahamas. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.

Social history

  • Johnson, Wittington B. Race Relations in the Bahamas, 1784–1834: The Nonviolent Transformation from a Slave to a Free Society, Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 2000.
  • Shirley, Paul. "Tek Force Wid Force", History Today 54, no. 41 (April 2004): 30–35.
  • Saunders, Gail. The Social Life in the Bahamas 1880s–1920s. Nassau: Media Publishing, 1996.
  • Saunders, Gail. Bahamas Society After Emancipation. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishing, 1990.
  • Curry, Jimmy. Filthy Rich Gangster/First Bahamian Movie. Movie Mogul Pictures: 1996.
  • Curry, Jimmy. To The Rescue/First Bahamian Rap/Hip Hop Song. Royal Crown Records, 1985.
  • Collinwood, Dean. The Bahamas Between Worlds, White Sound Press, 1989.
  • Collinwood, Dean, and Steve Dodge. Modern Bahamian Society, Caribbean Books, 1989.
  • Dodge, Steve, Robert McIntire, and Dean Collinwood. The Bahamas Index, White Sound Press, 1989.
  • Collinwood, Dean. "The Bahamas," in The Whole World Handbook 1992–1995, 12th ed., New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.
  • Collinwood, Dean. "The Bahamas," chapters in Jack W. Hopkins, ed., Latin American and Caribbean Contemporary Record, Vols. 1,2,3,4, Holmes and Meier Publishers, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986.
  • Collinwood, Dean. "Problems of Research and Training in Small Islands with a Social Science Faculty," in Social Science in Latin America and the Caribbean, UNESCO, No. 48, 1982.
  • Collinwood, Dean, and Rick Phillips, "The National Literature of the New Bahamas," Weber Studies, Vol.7, No. 1 (Spring) 1990: 43–62.
  • Collinwood, Dean. "Writers, Social Scientists, and Sexual Norms in the Caribbean," Tsuda Review, No. 31 (November) 1986: 45–57.
  • Collinwood, Dean. "Terra Incognita: Research on the Modern Bahamian Society," Journal of Caribbean Studies,Vol. 1, Nos. 2–3 (Winter) 1981: 284–297.
  • Collinwood, Dean, and Steve Dodge. "Political Leadership in the Bahamas," The Bahamas Research Institute, No.1, May 1987.

Further reading

  • Boultbee, Paul G. The Bahamas. Oxford: ABC-Clio Press, 1990.
  • Howard, Rosalyn A., Black Seminoles in the Bahamas, Gainesville: University of Florida, 2002
  • Wood, David E., comp., A Guide to Selected Sources to the History of the Seminole Settlements of Red Bays, Andros, 1817–1980, Nassau: Department of Archives

External links

  • Official website
  • Bahamas entry at The World Factbook
  • The Bahamas from UCB Libraries GovPubs
  • The Bahamas at DMOZ
  • The Bahamas from the BBC News
  • Key Development Forecasts for The Bahamas from International Futures
  • Maps of the Bahamas from the American Geographical Society Library
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