West Indies or the Caribbean is an archipelago, between the North and the South America, which separates the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, from Atlantic Ocean. It includes areas of the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the Bahamas.
There are about 7000 Islands in the Caribbean, which are mostly mountainous with several active volcanoes. Climate is warm and hurricanes occur frequently. There are also many islands with fresh water and animals.
Native populations of the West Indies were numerous tribes of Caribs, Arawaks and Ciboney. The oldest remains of human settlements are older than five-thousand years.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered several islands and named this area West Indies. It is believed that he first landed in the Bahamas. Just four years later, Spain founded the first settlement in 1496 on Hispaniola. In following years, during colonial period, English, French and Dutch also had their colonies. 16th and 17th centuries, were centuries of constant fighting over the control of the islands. Many ports flourished as trade centers and even more of them were deserted. Without dominant military powers and a lack of the strong government, many bandits saw opportunities in plundering rich trade ships.
The Caribbean islands were perfect for pirate actions. There are numerous small islands and many shallow waters. Pirates, who knew area well, could easily hide or attack quickly.
Haiti was the first Caribbean colony that gained independence in 1791. During 19th century and Spanish-American War, almost all countries gained independence. However, some smaller states are still colonies of European countries.
In the Golden Age of Pirates, almost all Caribs, Arawaks and Ciboney were wiped out. Slavery was common and Europeans used them as free labor. However, in the following years, they were replaced with African slaves. Rich plantation owners had hundreds of slaves. In 1721, in English colonies, slavery was forbidden, and almost all of the slaves continued to live there. Today, there are around 34 million people living in the West Indies, majority of inhabitants are of black African descent.