The Spaniards followed Columbus and depopulated the islands, carrying most of the indigenous people off into slavery. It is generally assumed that the islands were uninhabited until the the mid-17th century. However, recent research suggests that there may have been attempts to settle the islands by groups from Spain, France and Britain, as well as other Amerindians. In 1648, the Eleutherian Adventurers migrated from Bermuda. The Adventurers established the first permanent European settlements on an island which they named Eleuthera - the name derives from the Greek word for freedom. They later discovered New Providence and named it Sayle's Island. To survive, the settlers salvaged goods from wrecks.
In 1670 King Charles II granted the islands to the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas, who rented the islands from the king with rights of trading, tax, appointing governors, and administering the country.
During proprietary rule, the Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard. To restore orderly government, the Bahamas was made a British crown colony in 1718 under the royal governorship of Woodes Rogers, who, after a difficult struggle, succeeded in supressing piracy.
During the American Revolutionary War, the islands were a target for American naval forces under the command of Commodore Ezekial Hopkins. The capital of Nassau on island of New Providence was occupied by US Marines for a fortnight.
In 1782, after the British defeat at Yorktown, a Spanish fleet appeared off the coast of Nassau, which surrendered without fight. But the 1783 Treaty of Versailles - which ended the global conflict between Britain, France and Spain - returned the Bahamas to British sovereignty.
After the American Revolution, some 7,300 loyalists and their slaves moved to the Bahamas from New York, Florida and the Carolinas. These Americans established plantations on several islands and became a political force in the capital. The small population became mostly African from this point on.
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