What began as an untouched oasis in the Caribbean ocean evolved into a thriving habitat for first Lucayan natives, then an assortment of colonization efforts, and finally, a blossoming paradise revered by tourists and locals alike. The Bahamas have experienced a colorful history, whose events have accumulated to the islands’ present day conditions and independent nation status.
The Bahamas were utilized widely during World War II, with Allied forces operating air and underwater missions from the island base. In the aftermath of the war, the islands experienced a surge of tourism due to a newly established international airport in Nassau, a facility that was previously used as a wartime airfield. This began a revolutionary period for Bahamian development.
In the 1960s, the Bahamas began to gain momentum in efforts to become an independent, self-governed nation. In 1962, women were granted the right to vote in elections. Great Britain established the Bahamas as a self-sufficient government in 1964, when Sir Roland Symonette was named as the government’s Premier. Britain changed the status of the islands from colony to commonwealth during 1969, and the title of Premier was revised to Prime Minister. The Bahamas achieved complete independence on July 10, 1973. This enormous occasion marked the end of more than 300 years of British rule, and July 10th is celebrated annually as Bahamian Independence Day.
During the 1967 election, Lynden Pindling of the Progressive Liberal Party was voted into office as Prime Minister, and continued to oversee the government for two decades. He was officially knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who served as the head of state of the Bahamas. Pindling’s leadership saw an era of escalating levels of tourism and foreign investment for the newly born island nation. However, not all growth was positive; by the 1980s, it is estimated that 90% of the cocaine coming into the United States was transported via the Bahamas. It appeared that after Lynden Pindling brought waves of positive change to the Bahamas, his success turned into greed, and his began to take advantage of his influential position.
After Pindling’s abuse of powers was exposed, the Free National Movement worked to replace him with Hubert Ingrahm, who was elected as Prime Minister in 1992. Under Ingrahm’s guidance, the Bahamas opened their doors to relations with foreign industries. By allowing the influx of outside investment and talent, the country propelled itself towards prosperity, and away from the detrimental economic and social conditions that would plague their neighboring island of Haiti.
The 1990s were a decade of booming tourism and economic advances. In 1990, the Crystal Palace Resort and Casino was opened on Cable Beach. This $300-million resort marked the beginning of a trend of hotel and resort development throughout the region. During 1995, a South African investment group opened the famed Atlantis Paradise Island Resort and Casino, which houses the world’s largest outdoor aquarium. A year later in 1996, Huchinson Whampoa devised enormous plans for the development of Freeport Harbor into an international travel hotspot, complete with a multi-million dollar port. In the same year, the Bahamas reached their peak levels of tourism, which more than 1.5 million travelers coming to the island. With such huge advances in tourism, it is no wonder that the Caribbean Travel Organization and the Ministry of Tourism declared that the Bahamas are “The Most Popular Destination Among All Caribbean Islands.”
Tourism wasn’t the only thing Bahamians were rooting for during this time period. Athletes from the islands saw an era of unprecedented success during the 1990s and early 2000s. First, Frank Rutherford brought home an Olympic bronze medal for the triple jump. The women’s track and field team followed in Rutherford’s footsteps, and won the silver medal for the 400-meter relay in the 1996 Olympics. Four years later, the women’s track team stepped up their game and brought home the gold medal for the women’s 400-meter relay during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
The Bahamas fell victim to an onslaught of hurricane activity during the later half of 2004. First, Hurricane Frances blew through the islands, leaving a vast path of destruction in its wake. Merely three weeks after that disaster, Hurricane Jeanne demolished the Bahamas. These hurricanes flattened trees, destroyed property and flooded the inlands with seawater. In the aftermath of the storms, the islands of the Bahamas were left devastated. Efforts to restore the islands took years of recovery, but the Bahamas have since been brought back to their glory.
Today, the Bahamas is bustling. With general elections held every five years, the Bahamas have transformed from a British-ruled colony into a self-governing democracy. Their constitution echoes the ideas established in the American constitution, emphasizing each person’s right to life, liberty, and property. Travelers from around the globe flock to the Bahamas seeking tranquility, tropical breezes and the generally free-spirited nature of the islands.
Help us improve! We welcome your corrections and suggestions.