The first known inhabitants of the Bahamas were the Lucayans who arrived sometime around 600 AD. There is little record of the intervening period until the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.
By the mid 1640 the first permanent European settlement had been established and in the early 1700s the islands were used by pirates or ‘privateers’ against the French and Spanish trading ships.
By 1718 the first Royal Governor of the Bahamas, Woodes Rogers was appointed and it was he who set about fortifying Nassau the main port. The islands became an entry point into America for the slave trade with many staying in the islands and many of their ancestors making up the largest portion of the population today.
In the 1800s and early 1900s the islands had a colourful history being involved in the Confederate blockade running during the American Civil War. Then they were involved in the rum smuggling trade during the Prohibition after World War I.
In World War ii the islands were used as a training centre for the allies and in the 1950s Freeport on Grand Bahama became a free trade zone bringing much needed trade to the islands. The 1960s saw the islands become a favourite tourist attraction for Americans and by the 1970s the lack of corporate tax and income taxes made the islands ideal for the development of the offshore financial sector.
In 1964 the islands were given self-government with the first government coming from the United Bahamian Party under the leadership of Roland Symonette. That party did not form the government after the 1967 election; that honour went to the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) with the support of one Labour Party MP.
The Progressive Liberal Party won the 1968 election, taking 29 of the 38 seats in the House of Assembly and Lynden O. Pindling, the prime minister, led the islands to independence on 10th July 1973. The PLP were to go on and win the 1972, 1977, 1982 and 1987 elections, giving them twenty-five years in power.
In 1992 the Free National Movement (FNM) under the leadership of Hubert Ingraham broke the PLP spell and won the general election, taking 33 of the 40 seats in the House of Assembly and they won again in 1997 with 35 seats.
After ten years in the wilderness the PLP came back into power in 2002 under the leadership of Perry Christie, taking 29 seats, but they lost power once more to the FNM in 2007. The 2007 election was the closest in many years with the Free National Movement taking 23 seats and the Progressive Liberal Party taking 18 seats, a five seat margin.
Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State
The bicameral parliament has an appointed Senate and a House of Assembly. The House of Assembly has 41 members elected for five year terms within single constituencies.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places the Bahamas at joint 24th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 66 (where 100 is least corrupt).