In 1492 Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the New World in the Bahamian archipelago. The native people of the Bahamas were enslaved by the Spanish and taken to Hispaniola, leaving the Bahamas uninhabited by 1550. The English brought African slaves to the islands and began to establish settlements in the 1640's. Pirates, including Blackbeard, used the Bahamas as a base during the 18th and 19th centuries. The first royal governor arrived in 1718.

In 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, the islands were held briefly by the Continental Army. The Treaty of Versailles in 1783 confirmed British rule. Slavery was outlawed in 1838. During the American Civil War, blockade runners carried supplies to the Confederacy through Nassau. The Bahamas gained internal self-government in 1964. In 1967 the people elected the colony's first predominantly black government. Lynden O. Pindling became prime minister the same year. The Bahamas were granted full independence in 1973. Pindling remained prime minister until his party lost its majority in 1992.

Led by Hubert Ingraham, the Free National Movement (FNM) defeated Pindling's party, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), in 1992. Ingraham served as prime minister until 2002 and again in 2007.