Arawak Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.

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Surface Area: 13,940 sq km
Population: 299,697 (July 2004 est.)
Located in: Central America (Caribbean)
Capital City: Nassau
Head of State: Queen ELIZABETH II, represented by Governor General Dame Ivy DUMONT
Prime Minister: Perry CHRISTIE
Independent since: 10 July 1973
Currency: Bahamian dollar (BSD)
Flag (image):