The Bahamas ( (listen)), known officially as the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a country within the Lucayan Archipelago of the West Indies in the Atlantic. It takes up 97% of the Lucayan Archipelago's land area and is home to 88% of the archipelago's population. The archipelagic state consists of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, and is located north of Cuba and northwest of the island of Hispaniola (split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of the US state of Florida, and east of the Florida Keys. The capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force describes The Bahamas' territory as encompassing 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of ocean space.
The Bahama Islands were inhabited by the Lucayans, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taíno, for many centuries. Columbus was the first European to see the islands, making his first landfall in the 'New World' in 1492. Later, the Spanish shipped the native Lucayans to and enslaved them on Hispaniola, after which the Bahama 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 Revolutionary War, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists to The Bahamas; they took enslaved people with them and established plantations on land grants. African enslaved people and their descendants constituted the majority of the population from this period on. The slave trade was abolished by the British in 1807; slavery in The Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Subsequently, The Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves. Africans liberated from illegal slave ships were resettled on the islands by the Royal Navy, while some North American slaves and Seminoles escaped to The Bahamas from Florida. Bahamians were even known to recognise the freedom of enslaved people carried by the ships of other nations which reached The Bahamas. Today Afro-Bahamians make up 90% of the population of 332,634.
The country gained governmental independence in 1973 led by Sir Lynden O. Pindling, with Elizabeth II as its queen. 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), with an economy based on tourism and offshore finance.
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