The Bahamas , officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is a country consisting of more than 3,000 islands, cays and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, north of Cuba and Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeast of the US state of Florida. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. Geographically, the Bahamas lie in the same island chain as Cuba, Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands; the designation of "Bahamas" usually refers to the country and not the geographic chain. The country's population, numbering around 354,000, lives on a land area of 13,939 km2 (5,382 sq mi).
Originally inhabited by the Lucayans, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people, the Bahamas were the site of Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492. Although the Spanish never colonized the Bahamas, they shipped the native Lucayans to slavery in Hispaniola. The islands were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648, when English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.
The Bahamas became a Crown Colony in 1718 when the British clamped down on piracy. After the American War of Independence, thousands of American Loyalists and enslaved Africans moved to the Bahamas and set up a plantation economy. The slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807 and many Africans liberated from slave ships by the Royal Navy were settled in the Bahamas during the 19th century. Slavery itself was abolished in 1834 and the descendants form the majority of the Bahamas's population today.
In terms of GDP per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas (following the United States and Canada).