History of Bahamas till the arrival of Columbus

The earliest entry of people in the islands now called The Bahamas was in the first millennium AD. The earliest inhabitants of the islands were the Lucayans (an Arawakan language-speaking Taino people), who arrived between about 500 and 800 AD from other Caribbean islands. Recorded history started when Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Guanahani on 12 October 1492, during his first voyage to the New World. Columbus renamed the island San Salvador Island. The earliest permanent European settlement was in 1648 on Eleuthera. During the 18th century slave trade, many purchased African slaves were brought to the Bahamas to work unpaid. Their descendants now constitute 85% of the Bahamian population. The Bahamas gained independence from the United Kingdom on July 10, 1973.

Early history

Sometime between 500 and 800 AD, Taínos arrived in the Bahamas from Hispaniola and/or Cuba in dugout canoes. Supposed routes for the earliest migrations have been from Hispaniola or eastern Cuba to Great Inagua Island, from Hispaniola to the Caicos Islands, and from central Cuba to Long Island (in the central Bahamas). William Keegan contends that the most likely route was from Hispaniola or Cuba to Great Inagua. Vescelius and Granberry argue for two migrations, from Cuba to Great Inagua and from Hispaniola to the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Lucayan spread throughout the Bahamas in about 800 years by 1500 AD, but population density when Europeans first arrived was highest in the south-central region of the Bahamas, diminishing towards the north.

Arrival of Europeans (first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World) 

Christopher Columbus made landfall somewhere in the Bahama Islands on October 12, 1492 in the course of his first voyage to the New World. It is widely believed that he first landed on an island called Guanahani by its native inhabitants. Columbus renamed this island San Salvador. The actual location is a matter of dispute even now. Some scholars claim it is the place known today as San Salvador while others believe that the site was Samana Cay or Cat Island. Whatever the case, it is a well-accepted fact that Columbus explored the island and other islands nearby and then sailed to Cuba and Hispaniola.

Although Columbus took formal possession of the islands in the name of Spain, and the islands were within the Spanish sphere under the Treaty of Tordesillas signed between Portugal and Spain in 1494, the Spanish made very little attempt to settle them. Between 1492 and 1508, Spanish transported about 40,000 natives to work in the mines of Hispaniola. Islands remained depopulated for over a century prior to the establishment of first English settlement.

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