Group of 690 islands in a 760-mile chain off the SE coast of Florida, N of Cuba. Area: ca. 5,382 sq. mi. (ca. 4,404 sq. mi. inhabited). Columbus' 1st discovery in the New World; assigned to Sp. by papal grant; under Brit. influence from 1629; repeatedly under Sp. attack; Nassau seized by Am. force 1776; islands surrendered to Sp. 1782; restored to Brit. 1783; new const. 1964; Commonwealth of the Bahama Islands under another new const. 1969; indep. nation as the Commonwealth of the Bahamas 1973; mem. Commonwealth of Nations. Ethnic composition: ca. 85% Black and ca. 15% of Brit., Can., and US descent. Language: English. Religion: ca. 29% Bap., ca. 23% Angl., ca. 23% RC, ca. 7% Meth. Others include Brethren, Ch. of God, Seventh-day Adventists. First miss. work was done by Angl. 1731; Meths. began 1848 and Baps. ca. the same time.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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