United States of America History
The indigenous peoples of the U.S. mainland began arriving at least 12,000 and as many as 40,000 years ago. The pre-Columbian Mississippian culture developed advanced agriculture.
The European settlement of the Americas resulted in many millions of indigenous Americans dying from epidemics of imported diseases such as smallpox.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus, under contract to the Spanish crown, reached several Caribbean islands, making first contact with the indigenous people. On April 2, 1513, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León landed on what he called "La Florida"—the first documented European arrival on what would become the U.S. mainland.
Spanish settlements in the region were followed by ones in the present-day southwestern United States that drew thousands through Mexico. French fur traders established outposts of New France around the Great Lakes; France eventually claimed much of the North American interior, down to the Gulf of Mexico.
The first successful English settlements were the Virginia Colony in Jamestown in 1607 and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620.
In 1674, the Dutch ceded their American territory to England; the province of New Netherland was renamed New York.
By the turn of the century, African slaves were becoming the primary source of bonded labor. With the 1729 division of the Carolinas and the 1732 colonization of Georgia, the thirteen British colonies that would become the United States of America were established. Excluding the Native Americans, the thirteen colonies had a population of 2.6 million in 1770.
Though subject to British taxation, the American colonials had no representation in the Parliament of Great Britain.
Tensions between American colonials and the British during the revolutionary period of the 1760s and early 1770s led to the American Revolutionary War, fought from 1775 through 1781.
The United States Constitution was ratified in 1788, and the new republic's first Senate, House of Representatives, and president—George Washington—took office in 1789. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.
The Northern states abolished slavery between 1780 and 1804, leaving the slave states of the South as defenders of the "peculiar institution." Americans' eagerness to expand westward prompted a long series of Indian Wars and an Indian removal policy that stripped the native peoples of their land. The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory under President Thomas Jefferson 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. The United States annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845. The California Gold Rush of 1848–49 further spurred western migration.
New railways made relocation easier for settlers and increased conflicts with Native Americans. Over a half-century, up to 40 million American bison, or buffalo, were slaughtered for skins and meat and to ease the railways' spread. The loss of the buffalo, a primary resource for the plains Indians, was an existential blow to many native cultures.
Civil War and Industrialisation
Tensions between slave and free states mounted with arguments over the relationship between the state and federal governments, as well as violent conflicts over the spread of slavery into new states. With the Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter, the American Civil War began, and four more slave states joined the Confederacy. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation committed the Union to ending slavery. Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution ensured freedom for the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves.
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.
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the United States remained neutral. In 1917, the United States joined the Allies, turning the tide against the Central Powers. After the war, the Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which established the League of Nations. The country pursued a policy of unilateralism, verging on isolationism.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 triggered the Great Depression, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, a range of policies increasing government intervention in the economy.
On December 7, 1941, the United States joined the Allies against the Axis powers after a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. 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.
American troops fought Communist Chinese forces in the Korean War of 1950–53.
A growing civil rights movement, led by African Americans such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., fought segregation and discrimination. Following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
As a result of the Watergate scandal, in 1974 Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign, rather than be impeached.
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.
The leadership role taken by the United States and its allies in the UN–sanctioned Gulf War, under President George H. W. Bush, and the Yugoslav wars, under President Bill Clinton, helped to preserve its position as a superpower. The longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history—from March 1991 to March 2001—encompassed the Clinton administration and the dot-com bubble.
On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City and The Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly three thousand people. In response, the Bush administration launched a "War on Terrorism".
On November 4, 2008, amid a global economic recession, Barack Obama was elected president. He was the first African American to hold the office.
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