Population: 313,312 (July 2011 estimate)
Area: 5,359 square miles (13,880 sq km)
Coastline: 2,200 miles (3,542 km)
Highest Point: Mt. Alvernia on Cat Island at 206 feet (63 m)
The Bahamas are an island nation located in the Atlantic Ocean to the north of Cuba and to the southeast of the United States' state of Florida. It is also to the northwest of Turks and Caicos and it is within the same chain of islands as those islands as well as Cuba and Hispaniola. The country consists of 29 main islands, 661 cays (small, sandy islands above coral reefs) and over 2,000 islets or very small rocky islands.
History of the Bahamas
The first European to arrive in the Bahamas was Christopher Columbus in 1492. At that time, there was a native population of Lucayan people on the islands. Shortly after Columbus's arrival however Spanish slave traders began entering the Bahamas and moving the Lucayans to Hispaniola to work in gold mines. According to the U.S. Department of State, within 25 years of the arrival of the Spanish, most of the Bahamas' Lucayans had been killed.
In the mid-1600s the Eleutheran Adventurers, a religious group from England and Bermuda, established the first permanent European settlement at Eleuthera Island. By the late 1600s and early 1700s, the Bahamas became a popular base for pirates and privateers such as Sir Francis Drake and Edward "Blackbeard" Teach because the region around the islands featured many busy shipping lanes (U.S. Department of State). In 1717 the Bahamas became a British Crown Colony and in 1718 Woodes Rogers, its first Royal Governor, forced the pirates out of the islands.
In the late 1700s, the American Revolution took place to the north of the Bahamas in the United States and caused the population of the Bahamas to grow as those who were loyal to England moved there. As a result, the Bahamas developed more towns and colonies.
Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s the Bahamas continued to grow and because the islands are so close to the U.S. it became a center for illegal shipping activities (U.S. Department of State). For example during prohibition in the U.S. the islands were a major source of illegal rum shipping.
In 1964 the Bahamas began to move toward achieving its independence when it got the rights to internal self-government. On July 10, 1973 the islands then became fully independent within the British Commonwealth.
Government of the Bahamas
Today the Bahamas, officially called the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, are considered a constitutional parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm. As such Queen Elizabeth II is the chief of state of the country and a prime minister is head of government. The Bahamas' legislative branch consists of a bicameral Parliament that is made up of the Senate and the House Assembly. The judicial branch is made up of a Privy Council in London as well as Courts of Appeal, a Supreme Court and Magistrates' Courts. The Bahamas are divided into 31 districts for local administration.
Economics and Land Use in the Bahamas
The Bahamas has a very strong economy and it is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean. Most of its economy is dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Other industries in the Bahamas include cement, oil transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals and spiral welded steel pipe (CIA World Factbook). Agriculture is a small part of the Bahamas' economy and the main products of that industry are citrus, vegetables and poultry.
Geography and Climate of the Bahamas
The Bahamas are a chain of Caribbean islands located in the Atlantic Ocean to the north of Cuba and southeast of Florida. The country is made up of many different islands that cover an area of 5,359 square miles (13,880 sq km). The topography of these islands is mainly flat as most of them are long, coral islands. Some of the islands have low elevation hilly areas and the highest point in the Bahamas is Mt. Alvernia on Cat Island at 206 feet (63 m).
The climate of the Bahamas is tropical marine and as such it is warm there throughout most of the year. In addition, the Gulf Stream plays a moderating role on the area's temperatures. Nassau, the capital and largest city of the Bahamas, is located on New Providence Island and has an average August high temperature of 89.8˚F (32.1˚C). The average January low temperature for that city is 63.1˚F (17.3˚C). Most of the Bahamas' precipitation falls from June to October and it gets a yearly average of 37.033 inches (940.6 mm).
To learn more about the Bahamas, visit the Geography and Maps page on the Bahamas on this website.
Central Intelligence Agency. (12 July 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - The Bahamas. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bf.html
Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Bahamas: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107309.html
United States Department of State. (8 June 2011). The Bahamas. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1857.htm
Wikipedia.org. (18 July 2011). The Bahamas - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahamas