History of the USA

The discovery of America (1492)

1st european in America was viking Leif Erikson around 1000AD.

The generally accepted fact about the discovery of the American Continent is that it was discovered by Christopher Columbus (1492). Columbus was not the very first person to
come to America but his voyages resulted in many expeditions to the New World, establishing colonies and spreading Christianity.

As he believed that he was in India, he named the inhabitants Indians. The Native Americans, whom Columbus named Indians, spread through the continent 35 000 years ago. They were living mostly from agriculture, hunting and fishing.

The year 1492 is sometimes considered as the symbolic beginning of the Modern Age.

In 1507 the term America was first used. The continent was named after Amerigo Vespucci because he explored the area and helped to distinguish America as a new continent.

From 1492 to 1776 North America served as a colonial land to many Western European countries (Spain, France, Holland, Sweden, England). They were searching for the natural wealth of the region (fur trade, plants – corn, beans, potatoes, tobacco…)

Pilgrim Fathers (1620)

In the 17th century many members of the Church of England, known as Puritans or Separatists, decided to move to America to seek religious freedom they were persecuted at home. A typical Puritan colony emerged in 1620 and was named Massachusetts Bay colony. These first colonists are known as Pilgrim Fathers.

During the first half of the 17th century more and more colonies were being established and southern plantations didn´t have enough workers so they decided to introduce slavery. Eventually, most southern plantations relied only on slave labour. In 1626 Manhattan was bought from Indians by the Dutch in exchange for some cheap trade goods. The Dutch named it New Amsterdam. In 1664 Britain conquered Manhattan and renamed it New York.

War of Independence (1775-1783)

British Parliament imposed heavy taxes on many goods imported to the colonies from Britain. The Americans had to pay taxes but at the same time they didn´t have any representatives in the British parliament.

This caused much disobedience which resulted in the Boston Tea Party in 1773 – the protesters, some of them disguised as Indians, got on ships bringing tea to America and threw the whole shipment of tea into the sea.  This event started struggle for independence of the thirteen American colonies = War of Independence (1775-1783).  On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed.  Eventually, the British surrendered and in 1783 recognized the United States as a sovereign country. Elected by unanimous vote, George Washington was the first president in office (1789-1797).

 

Civil War (1861-1865)

In 1850s in the newly formed states in the North abolitionism, the movement against slavery, spread considerably. In 1861 the slavery states announced secession, formed the Confederacy, the remaining states formed the Union, and the Civil War broke out. The situation of the North was better than that of the South. The North had larger areas of land, greater population, heavy industry, the network of roads and railways etc. The South had practically no industry, it was dependent on agriculture and slave labour. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves.  Finally, the South surrendered to the North. On 14 April 1865, five days after the end of the war, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer.

The Civil War ended slavery and established equal rights for African-Americans, but many states, especially in the South, passed laws segregating and discriminating against African-Americans.

 

19th  century, WWI

 In the nineteenth century the U.S. were becoming a world power and was also expanding their territory – in 1867 Alaska was bought from Russia, the Hawaiian Island were annexed in 1898. In the times of World War I, Woodrow Wilson managed to keep the States out of the war. But after Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare and sank several American ships Congress declared war on the Central Powers.

After the war American economy was prospering until 1929 when the stock market in New York crashed, causing widespread economic depression and unemployment. The day of the stock market crash is known as Black Thursday.

 

WWII

The U.S. entered World War II on 7 December 1941 after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor without any previous declaration of war. In August 1945 two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This ended WWII, but afterwards the US and USSR began a contest to dominate the world. The Cold War lasted over forty years and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

In the 1960s one of the biggest US personalities, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the USA, was assassinated in Dallas in November 1963. Also the assassinations of Kennedy´s  brother, Robert Kennedy, and the leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King,  in 1968 shocked the world.

In July 1969 American astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man on the Moon

In the 1970s the USA, under Robert Nixon, continued the Vietnam War. Nixon was the only US president who had to resign from his office because of the Watergate scandal.

In 2009 , Barack Obama, the first African-American US president, was elected.

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