The Bahamas is an archipelago of islands to the north of Cuba and Haiti, and southeast of Florida. Notable islands include, New Providence Island with its largest port of Nassau, and Eleuthera island fifty miles to the east, with it neighbouring Harbour Island. However, there are over 30 inhabitable islands in total. In the early eighteenth century, Nassau became the haven for pirates, while other smaller islands became refuges for escaped slave communities.
The Bahamas were originally inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as Lucayan. Originally from the South American continent, some of the Arawak had been driven north into the Caribbean by the Carib Indians. Unlike their Carib neighbours, the Lucayan were generally peaceful, more involved in fishing than agriculture, and not cannibalistic.
When Columbus reached the New World in 1492, he is thought to have landed on San Salvador or possibly Samana Cay, both in the Bahamas. The Spaniards made no attempt to settle but operated slave raids on the peaceful Arawak that depopulated the islands. By the time the English arrived, the Bahamas were uninhabited.
In 1629, Charles I of England granted the islands to one of his ministers, but no attempt at settlement was made. In 1648, William Sayle led a group of English Puritans from Bermuda to, it is thought, Eleuthera Island. This settlement met with extreme adversity and did not prosper, but other Bermudan migrants continued to arrive. New Providence was settled in 1656. By 1670 the Bahamas were given to the Duke of Albemarle and seven others as a proprietary colony. The proprietors were mostly uninterested in the islands, and few of the settlements prospered. Piracy became a way of life for many.
When the earthquake destroyed Port Royal, Nassau, on the island of New Providence became more important as a pirate hide out. With the end of the Queen Anne's War and the peace that followed, Great Britain started to crack down on piracy but for awhile the Bahamas remained relatively ignored.