The Bahamas, officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a nation in the Atlantic Ocean located within the Lucayan Archipelago in the West Indies. It accounts for 97 percent of the land area of the Lucayan Archipelago and is home to 88 percent of the archipelago's people. The archipelagic state is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, north of Cuba and northwest of the island of Hispaniola (divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of the American state of Florida, and east of the Florida Keys. On the island of New Providence, the capital is Nassau. According to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, The Bahamas' territory encompasses 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of ocean area.
For generations, the Lucayans, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Tano, lived in the Bahama Islands. Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit the islands, arriving in the "New World" in 1492. The native Lucayans were afterward sent to and enslaved in Hispaniola, leaving the Bahama islands virtually abandoned from 1513 until 1648, when English colonists from Bermuda landed on the island of Eleuthera.
When the British cracked down on piracy in 1718, the Bahamas became a British crown province. Following the American Revolutionary War, the Crown relocated thousands of American Loyalists to the Bahamas, bringing with them enslaved people and establishing plantations on land concessions. From this point on, African enslaved people and their descendants represented the bulk of the population. The British outlawed the slave trade in 1807, while slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. As a result, the Bahamas became a safe refuge for liberated African slaves. The Royal Navy relocated Africans freed from illegal slave ships on the islands, while some North American slaves and Seminoles fled to the Bahamas from Florida. Bahamians were even known to recognize the liberation of enslaved persons brought to the Bahamas by ships from other countries. Afro-Bahamians now constitute 90% of the 400,516-person population.
The nation acquired political independence in 1973 under the leadership of Sir Lynden O. Pindling, with Elizabeth II as its monarch. The Bahamas is one of the wealthiest nations in the Americas in terms of GDP per capita (behind the United States and Canada), with an economy built on tourism and offshore banking.