Like many areas in the Caribbean, the hundreds of islands and cays that make up the Bahamas were "discovered" and claimed by European explorers in the late 1400s. The road back to independence and self rule was long but relatively peaceful.
The first settlers on many of the islands, thought to be predominantly the Arawak speaking Lucayan or Taino people but also included the Ciboney and the Carib people, arrived from South America sometime in the 9th Century. For hundreds of years the indigenous culture thrived and spread from island to island.
Columbus landed at San Salvador claimed the Caribbean islands for the Spanish on his first journey to the Americas in 1492. The word Bahamas is thought to come from the Arawak name for the islands, but some historians believe it comes from the Spanish, "Baja Mar," which means "shallow sea."
The Spanish had control first and brought slavery to the islands. The Dutch gained control of the islands of the Bahamas for a short time, but lost them to the English. The Islands were claimed by the English in 1670. The Bahamas remained mainly under British rule for the next 300 years. A brief — one year — return to Spanish rule in 1782 ended with the Bahamas once again British colonies.
Slavery was officially abolished in the Bahamas in 1838. In 1964, after decades of debate and legal maneuvering, Great Britain granted The Islands Of The Bahamas limited self-government. The Bahamas became a British Commonwealth in 1969 ending the colonial rule, but not the British flavor of the islands.
The Islands became a nation on July 10, 1973, which is the date celebrated today as Bahamian Independence Day.