Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos Islands

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Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos Islands
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The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos Islands, also known as the Commonwealth of the Lucayan Islands, is a country in the Atlantic Ocean. The capital is Nassau, located in the island of New Providence.


Early English Settlement

The English had already shown an interest in the Bahamas in 1629. It was not until 1648, however, that the first English settlers came to the islands. These settlers, known as the Eleutherian Explorers and led by William Sayle, moved into the islands, pursuing greater religious freedom. These settlers established the first settlement on the island they named 'Eleuthera'. Eventually, these settlers moved into New Providence and called it Sayle's Island after their leader. However, settlement in the islands soon proved to be hard, and the settlers had to rely on salvaged goods from wrecks to survive. Although many new settlers had arrived on the island throughout the mid-1600s, a lot of the former settlers also deserted the islands. By the 1670s, the Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos islands were abandoned completely by most of its original settlers. However, the area was still kept under the control of an English governor.

Rise of Piracy in the Caribbean

The conclusion of the 2nd Anglo-Dutch War in 1664 and the coronation of Queen Henrietta of England (wife of William II of Orange) in 1667 had allowed for relative peace between the Dutch Republic and England. Furthermore, the Anglo-Spanish-Dutch alliance during the 1670s had temporarily put hostilities between these nations to a halt. This peace was also evident in their North American colonies. While this peace had allowed for a rise in quantities of valuable cargo being shipped to Europe over the Atlantic, it also had an adverse effect on both of the nations. This period was known for reduced European naval presence in the new world overall.

These factors soon led to the era of piracy in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans. The roots of piracy were planted into the Bahamas (particularly Nassau island) when an English privateer had docked into Nassau harbor with his ship loaded with loot from plundering Indian trade ships. The ship was loaded with a valuable amount of elephant tusks and gunpowder. When confronted by the governor Nicholas Trott, the English privateer had simply bribed him, thus securing Nassau as a base where pirates could operate safely. In the decades to come, the succeeding governors were mostly indifferent to the growth of piracy in the region (although various governors made seldom made shows of suppressing piracy).

The peace in Europe had caused a lot of Dutch and English privateers to slip into piracy. These Anglo-Dutch privateers-turned-pirates would regularly dock into Nassau harbor, as they were protected there. More and more pirates soon contributed to the development of the island (such as the reparation of the harbor, establishment of basic facilities, etc.).

Establishment of the Pirate Republic

In 1701, Godwin Paddley was appointed by Britain as governor of the islands. Paddley known as a stern statesman in England, and was seen as the perfect fit to rule over the unruly islands. Upon arrival, he would issue crackdowns on piracy, moves which became unpopular with the sailors invested in the islands. In 1714, Governor Paddley had died in a falling accident. Later that year, a rebellion was launched by an English pirate captain named Woodrow "Goldentooth" Hanzel. He would then proceed to become the islands' first leader. The island of Nassau would be known throughout the 1710s to 1720s as the capital of piracy in the Atlantic. Throughout this period, the pirate republic would expand their base of operations to the surrounding islands, and eventually establishing a base on the Florida keys. Initially, the pirates had refrained from attacking Dutch and British ships and instead attacked Spanish ships. However, this restraint soon disappeared over the time and forced the British to take more serious action against these pirates.

Restoration of English Rule

In 1725, a new governor, William Muston, was appointed. Muston took a relatively more diplomatic approach than his predecessor, Godwin Paddley, did. He was able to secure the king's Royal Pardon for any pirates who would surrender. This tactic had worked; several pirate captains had surrendered to Muston (including Woodrow "Goldentooth" Hanzel's son), and Muston would soon commission these pirates to hunt the other privateers who evaded capture. Several of the surviving pirates, including Hanzel himself, fled to their base in Florida keys where they were outside of British naval jurisdiction. The pirate republic would still continue to operate there but their projection of power was too weak to be considered a threat. In 1755, shortly after the end of Prince Maurice's War, a combined effort of the British and Spanish finally ended the pirate presence in the Florida Keys.

Over the 19th century, the islands would be administered as a single unit, known as the Bahamas, Caicos, and Turks Islands. Several land grants were given to English colonists, eventually establishing plantations. These plantations brought in a small slave population before Britain outlawed slavery in the 1830s.

In the 20th century, they achieved independence and became part of the Commonwealth of Nations.


Historically, the Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos Islands were considered a settler colony of the British. Majority of the modern-day population is of European descent (64%) and trace their roots to the English Puritans and Virginian loyalists who moved there after the independence of Virginia in the 1850s. Africans make up 34% of the population, owing to the slave population brought in by plantation owners during the late 1700s until the British outlawed the slave trade in the 1830s. Asians, Native Americans, and other ethnic groups make up 2% of the population.