Spread out across 260,000km2 in the Atlantic Ocean, The Bahamas' 700 islands and 2,050 cays form a combined surface area of approximately 14,000km2. The islands flow southeast, starting at a point around 80km off the Florida coast and trailing off 113km from the coast of Haiti. The 30 inhabited islands of The Bahamas, home to 300,000 people, hold a thousand and one natural and historic treasures. The country's capital was named Nassau in honour of William of Orange-Nassau, who later became William III, King of England.
First a homeland to the Lucayan people, then the site of Christopher Columbus's first contact with the New World (on the island of San Salvador, on October 12, 1492) and later the first landfall of the Puritans who were trying to escape religious persecution beginning in 1649, The Bahamas were subsequently inhabited by shipwrecked sailors who survived by pillaging passing ships. After the American War of Independence, British Loyalists from the United States and their black slaves settled on the islands in order to exploit their cotton fields, which ultimately proved to be an unsuccessful enterprise. Most of The Bahamas' current population traces its roots back to these slaves.