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New Providence is the most populated island in the Bahamasmarker. While the first European visitors to the Bahama Islands were Bermudianmarker salt rakers gathering sea salt in Grand Turkmarker and Inaguamarker after 1670, the first lasting occupation was on Eleutheramarker and then New Providence shortly thereafter. The attraction of New Providence was one of the best sheltered natural small vessel harbors in the Caribbeanmarker.

Because of the harbor and near adjacency to the Florida Straitmarker, New Providence became a nest of pirates preying on mainly Spanishmarker shipping returning to Spain with gold, silver, and other wealth. The apex of pirate activity there was from 1715 to 1725, after which the Britishmarker government established a formal colony and military headquarters centered on the small city of Nassaumarker fronting the New Providence harbor.


In February 1776, American Esek Hopkins led a squadron of over seven ships in an effort to raid the Britishmarker-held island in order to secure supplies and munitions. The Battle of Nassau, On March 3rd and 4th, Hopkins landed the first-ever amphibious assault by American military forces consisting of 250 Marines and Sailors. Under the covering fire of the (12) and Hornet (10), the attackers overwhelmed Fort Montagne. The British retreated to Fort Nassau, but then surrendered to Continental forces. The Americans managed to secure 88 cannon and 15 mortars, but most of the badly desired gunpowder was evacuated before capture. Hopkins spent two weeks loading his ships with the booty before finally returning home.

The frigate South Carolina, of the South Carolina Navy, arrived at Havana on 12 January 1782. At Havana, after negotiations between Alexander Gillon and the Spanish, the South Carolina joined a force of 59 vessels carrying Spanishmarker forces under Bernado Galvez. On 22 April the expedition sailed to capture New Providence. By May 5 the whole fleet had reached New Providence and on 8 May the colony surrendered. This was the third capture of New Providence during the American Revolutionary War.

After the American Revolution, several thousand Tories and their slave emigrated to New Providence and nearby islands, hoping to re-establish plantation agriculture. The shallow soils and sparse rainfall doomed this activity to failure, and by the early 19th century the Bahamas had become a nearly vacant archipelago. Salt raking continued here and there, wreck gleaning was profitable in Grand Bahamamarker, but New Providence was the only island with any prosperity because of the large Britishmarker military establishment. The fortresses began to crumble and were abandoned by 1850. New Providence had two periods of high economic success during the American Civil War and during Prohibition, when it was a smuggling center.

Since 1960, New Providence has become an Americanmarker vacation destination with many tourist facilities, including a deepened harbor for short-visit cruise ship visitors and hotels offering gambling. Two-thirds of the 300,000 Bahamians live on New Providence, although this proportion has fallen somewhat with the development of Freeportmarker on Grand Bahamamarker.

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