England formally claimed The Bahamas in 1629, but surrendered the islands to Spain in 1782. Spain ruled the islands for approximately one year before signing the Treaty of Paris, which ceded The Bahamas to Britain. In 1940, after renouncing the throne of England, the Duke of Windsor was named governor of The Bahamas, as war was raging in Europe. It was not until 1964 that The Bahamas was granted internal self-government. For several decades thereafter, the United Bahamian Party (UBP) ruled The Bahamas, which was a dependency of the United Kingdom. In 1953, dissatisfied Bahamians formed the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which served as the UBP's opposition.

When the PLP's leader, Lynden Pindling, was elected Prime Minister in 1967, the PLP took control of the government. However, during the general election in 1972, the Bahamian people voted for total independence. The Bahamas became part of the Commonwealth of Nations on 10 July 1973 and adopted a new constitution. Although The Bahamas maintains full independence from Great Britain, its legal and political traditions closely resemble those of the United Kingdom. In addition, The Bahamas recognizes the British Monarch as its formal head of state. Also in the British tradition, The Bahamas has a two-house Parliament, an independent judiciary and a ministerial Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister.

The Bahamas is considered one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean. With an economy based primarily on offshore banking and tourism, The Bahamas is a relatively stable country. Tourism is such a vital part of the country's development that nearly half of the work force is employed in tourism-related jobs. In fact, the country's tourism sector accounts for approximately 50 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Other strong industries include oil refining, pharmaceuticals, rum production, salt and transhipment. In addition, agriculture represents a fairly important percentage of the Gross Domestic Product. The major agricultural products include citrus fruit, poultry and vegetables.

The Bahamas imports most of its electronics, foodstuffs and manufactured goods from Puerto Rico, the United States and the United Kingdom. In addition, the country imports large amounts of crude oil primarily from countries such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Major trade partners include Denmark, Japan and the United States.


Official Name: Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Capital City: Nassau
Type of Government: Constitutional parliamentary democracy
Official Language: English; Creole also spoken
Area: 13,940 sq. km/5,382 sq. mi
Population: 309,156
Religions: Baptist (35.4%), Anglican (15.1%), Roman Catholic
Currency: Bahamian dollar (BSD)
Number of Time Zones: 1
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) minus 5 hours, or Eastern Standard Time (EST); Daylight Saving Time (DST) is observed from the second Sunday in March through the first Sunday in November.
Weights and Measures: Metric system
Country Domain: .bs
Country Tel Code: 242