Nassau was the largest port on New Providence Island, and one of the largest commercial centres in the entire Bahamas. From 1706 it was a haven for pirates who governed it as the Republic of Pirates. The activities of the pirates caused havoc with trade and shipping throughout the West Indies.
Nassau was formerly known as Charles Town (not to be confused with Charles Town, Carolina Colony); it was burned to the ground by the Spanish in 1684. Rebuilt, it was renamed Nassau in 1695 under Governor Nicholas Trott in honour of the Dutch Stadtholder (stadhouder in Dutch) and later also King of England, Scotland and Ireland, William III from the Dutch-German House of Orange-Nassau. The name Nassau derives from the House of Nassau and ultimately from the town of Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. Due to a lack of effective Governors (after Trott), Nassau fell on hard times.
Henry Avery was considered the founding father of the pirate nation, who harboured his ship there in 1696. However, the era of true pirate control only occurred after a combined Franco-Spanish Fleet briefly occupied Nassau in 1703, and attacked again in 1706. The sparsely settled Bahamas was then taken over by English privateers, who became completely lawless pirates over time.
By 1713, the Governor of Bermuda stated that there were over 1,000 pirates in Nassau and that they outnumbered the mere hundred inhabitants of the town. They proclaimed Nassau a pirate republic, establishing themselves as "governors." Examples of pirates that used Nassau as their base are Charles Vane, Benjamin Hornigold, Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, Edward Teach, and James Flint.