Let us now first give an introductory note on United States of America.
Native American and European contact
People from Asia migrated to the North American continent approximately 15,000 or more years ago. Some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies. After European explorers and traders made the first contacts, it is estimated that their population declined due to various reasons, including diseases such as smallpox and measles, intermarriage, and violence.
In the early days of colonization many settlers were subject to shortages of food, disease and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at war with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their colonial wars. At the same time however many natives and settlers came to depend on each other. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts, natives for guns, ammunition and other European wares. Natives taught many settlers where, when and how to hunt and fish and cultivate corn, beans and squash in the frontier. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Indians and urged them to concentrate on farming and ranching without depending on hunting and gathering.
After Columbus' first voyage to the New World in 1492 other explorers and settlement followed into the Floridas and the American Southwest. There were also some French attempts to colonize the east coast, and later more successful settlements along the Mississippi River. Successful English settlement on the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. Early experiments in communal living failed until the introduction of private farm holdings. The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses created in 1619, and the Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, established precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.
Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, but other industries developed. Cash crops included tobacco, rice and wheat. Extraction industries grew up in furs, fishing and lumber. Manufacturers produced rum and ships and by the late colonial period Americans were producing one-seventh of the world's iron supply. Cities eventually dotted the coast to support local economies and serve as trade hubs. English colonists were supplemented by waves of Scotch-Irish and other groups. As coastal land grew more expensive freed indentured servants pushed further west. Slave cultivation of cash crops began with the Spanish in the 1500s, and was adopted by the English, but life expectancy was much higher in North America because of less disease and better food and treatment, so the numbers of slaves grew rapidly. Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery and colonies passed acts for and against the practice. But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were replacing indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in southern regions.
With the 1732 colonization of Georgia, the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America were established. All had local governments with elections open to most free men, with a growing devotion to the ancient rights of Englishmen and a sense of self-government stimulating support for republicanism. With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly. Relatively small Native American populations were eclipsed. The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest in both religion and religious liberty.
In the French and Indian War, British forces seized Canada from the French, but the francophone population remained politically isolated from the southern colonies. Excluding the Native Americans, who were being conquered and displaced, those 13 colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about one-third that of Britain. Despite continuing new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas. The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert Royal authority.
Independence and expansion
The American Revolution was the first successful colonial war of independence against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism" that held government rested on the will of the people as expressed in their local legislatures. They demanded their rights as Englishmen, “no taxation without representation”. The British insisted on administering the empire through Parliament, and the conflict escalated into the American Revolutionary War. The Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1776, proclaiming that humanity is created equal in their inalienable rights. That date is now celebrated annually as America's Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a weak government that operated until 1789.
Britain recognized the independence of the United States following their defeat at Yorktown. In the peace treaty of 1783, American sovereignty was recognized from the Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River. Nationalists led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution, and it was ratified in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized into three branches for their checks and balances in 1789. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.
Although the federal government criminalized the international slave trade in 1808, after 1820 cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it the slave population. The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism, in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.
U.S. territorial acquisitions–portions of each territory were granted statehood over time
Americans' eagerness to expand westward prompted a long series of Indian Wars. The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost doubled the nation's size. The War of 1812, declared against Britain over various grievances and fought to a draw, strengthened U.S. nationalism. A series of U.S. military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819.
From 1820 to 1850, Jacksonian democracy began a set of reforms which included wider male suffrage, and it led to the rise of the Second Party System of Democrats and Whigs as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. The Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that moved Indians into the west to their own reservations. The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845 during a period of expansionist Manifest Destiny. The 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest. Victory in the Mexican-American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest.
The California Gold Rush of 1848–49 spurred western migration and the creation of additional western states. After the American Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade and increased conflicts with Native Americans. Over a half-century, the loss of the buffalo was an existential blow to many Plains Indians cultures. In 1869, a new Peace Policy sought to protect Native-Americans from abuses, avoid further warfare, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship.
Civil War and Reconstruction Era
From the beginning of the United States, inherent divisions over slavery between the North and the South in American society ultimately led to the American Civil War. Initially states entering the Union alternated slave and free, keeping a sectional balance in the Senate, while free states outstripped slave states in population and in the House of Representatives. But with additional western territory and more free-soil states, tensions between slave and free states mounted with arguments over federalism and disposition of the territories, whether and how to expand or restrict slavery.
Beginning in December 1860, conventions in thirteen states declared secession, then formed the Confederate States of America, and the U.S. federal government maintained secession was illegal. The ensuing war was at first for Union, then after 1863 as casualties mounted and the Emancipation Proclamation, a second war aim became abolition of slavery. The war remains the deadliest military conflict in American history, resulting in the deaths of approximately 620,000 soldiers as well as many civilians.
Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution prohibited slavery, made the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves U.S. citizens, and promised them voting rights. The war and its resolution led to a substantial increase in federal power aimed at reintegrating and rebuilding the Southern states while ensuring the rights of the newly freed slaves. But following the Reconstruction Era, throughout the South Jim Crow laws soon effectively disenfranchised most blacks and some poor whites. Over the subsequent decades, in both the north and south blacks and some whites faced systemic discrimination, including racial segregation and occasional vigilante violence, sparking national movements against these abuses.
In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe hastened the country's industrialization. The wave of immigration, lasting until 1924, provided labor and transformed American culture. United States immigration policies were Eurocentric, which barred Asians from naturalization, and restricted their immigration beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. National infrastructure development spurred economic growth. The end of the Civil War spurred greater settlement and development of the American Old West. This was due to a variety of social and technological developments, including the completion of the First Transcontinental Telegraph in 1861 and the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.
The 1867 Alaska Purchase from Russia completed the country's mainland expansion. The Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 was the last major armed conflict of the Indian Wars. In 1893, the indigenous monarchy of the Pacific Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown in a coup led by American residents; the United States annexed the archipelago in 1898. Victory in the Spanish–American War the same year demonstrated that the United States was a world power and led to the annexation of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The Philippines gained independence a half-century later; Puerto Rico and Guam remain U.S. territories.
The emergence of many prominent industrialists at the end of the 19th century gave rise to the Gilded Age, a period of growing affluence and power among the business class. The hardships the working classes experienced during this period led to the rise of anarchist and socialist movements in the U.S. In 1914 alone, 35,000 workers died in industrial accidents and 700,000 were injured. This period eventually ended with the beginning of the Progressive Era, a period of significant reforms in many societal areas, including regulatory protection for the public, greater antitrust measures, and attention to living conditions for the working classes. President Theodore Roosevelt was one leading proponent of progressive reforms.
World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the United States remained neutral. Most Americans sympathized with the British and French, although many opposed intervention. In 1917, the United States joined the Allies, and the American Expeditionary Forces helped to turn the tide against the Central Powers. President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 which helped to shape the post-war world. Wilson advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this, and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which established the League of Nations.
The country pursued a policy of unilateralism, verging on isolationism. In 1920, the women's rights movement, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage. The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, a range of policies increasing government intervention in the economy, including the establishment of the Social Security system. The Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.
The United States, effectively neutral during World War II's early stages after Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939, began supplying material to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend-Lease program. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis powers as well as the internment of Japanese Americans by the thousands. Participation in the war spurred capital investment and industrial capacity. Though the nation lost more than 400,000 soldiers, the war was a major economic benefit for the country.
Allied conferences at Bretton Woods and Yalta outlined a new system of international organizations that placed the United States and Soviet Union at the center of world affairs. As victory was won in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war. The United States, having developed the first nuclear weapons, used them on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August. Japan surrendered on September 2, ending the war.
Cold War and Civil Rights era
Civil Rights leaders, including Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr., lead one of the Selma to Montgomery marches.
The United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for power after World War II during the Cold War, dominating the military affairs of Europe through NATO and the Warsaw Pact, respectively. While they engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries avoided direct military conflict. The U.S. often opposed Third World left-wing movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored. American troops fought Communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–53. The House Un-American Activities Committee pursued a series of investigations into suspected leftist subversion, while Senator Joseph McCarthy became the figurehead of anticommunist sentiment.
The 1961 Soviet launch of the first manned spaceflight prompted President John F. Kennedy's call for the United States to be first to land "a man on the moon", achieved in 1969. Kennedy also faced a tense nuclear showdown with Soviet forces in Cuba. Meanwhile, the United States experienced sustained economic expansion. Amidst the presence of various white nationalist groups, particularly the Ku Klux Klan, a growing civil rights movement used nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination. This was symbolized and led by black Americans such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. On the other hand, some black nationalist groups such as the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X had a more militant scope.
Following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 were passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He also signed into law the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Johnson also expanded a proxy war in Southeast Asia into the ultimately unsuccessful Vietnam War. A widespread countercultural movement grew, fueled by opposition to the war, black nationalism, and the sexual revolution. Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and others led a new wave of feminism that sought political, social, and economic equality for women.
In the 1970s, the American economy was hurt by two major energy shocks. The Nixon Administration restored normal relations with China and oversaw the beginning of a period of generally eased relations with the Soviet Union. As a result of the Watergate scandal, in 1974 Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign, to avoid being impeached on charges including obstruction of justice and abuse of power. The Carter Administration of the late 1970s was marked by the Iran hostage crisis, stagflation, and an increase of tensions with the Soviet Union following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980 heralded a rightward shift in American politics,] reflected in major changes in taxation and spending priorities. His second term in office brought both the Iran–Contra scandal and significant diplomatic progress with the Soviet Union. The subsequent Soviet collapse ended the Cold War.
Under President George H. W. Bush, the United States took a lead role in the UN–sanctioned Gulf War. The longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history—from March 1991 to March 2001—encompassed the Bill Clinton administration and the dot-com bubble.
On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists under the leadership of Osama bin Laden struck the World Trade Center in New York City and The Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people. In response, the George W. Bush administration launched the global War on Terror, invading Afghanistan and removing the Taliban government and al-Qaeda training camps. However, Taliban insurgents were never completely defeated and continue to fight a guerrilla war against U.S. forces. In 2003, the United States and several allied forces launched an invasion of Iraq to engineer regime change there, beginning the Iraq War. American combat troops fought in the country for eight years.In 2008, amid a global economic recession and two wars, the first African-American president, Barack Obama, was elected. On May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed during an American Navy SEAL raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.