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Anchorage Museum, Anchorage (Alaska)
Anchorage Museum
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North America >> United States Of America >> History of United States Of America

History of United States Of America

During the last Ice Age, a band of hunters crossed over the Bering Sea, becoming the first humans on America. By 9000 BC, hunter-gatherers, including some of the Native American tribes of today had established themselves all over the continent. Though many earlier sailors and explorers briefly came to America, it is believed that Christopher Columbus "discovered" America in 1492. This opened up the way for European colonisation -the French, Dutch, Spanish and the English carved up the country, with the English gaining more ground. During the latter half of the 18th century, the French and English clashed extensively for territorial sovereignty -the British were victorious and in 1763, French Canada was ceded to the British.

In order to raise money for war expenses, the colonial British government decided to levy a number of taxes in their American colonies. This move was met by fierce resistance: the 1770 Boston Massacre and the 1774 Boston Tea party setting the tone for rebellion against colonial forces! In 1776, the Continental Congress in their public Declaration of Independence, asked for freedom from British rule for all 13 colonies. Starting out as a small band of fighters, the Continental army under George Washington became a formidable force and the Revolutionary War was decided in favor of America with the defeat of the British general, Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.

Post-Revolutionary War was a time for growth and consolidation of the white American settlers. Under the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, President Thomas Jefferson bought up land beyond the Mississippi River, accounting for 1/4th for the country's area for 3 cents an acre from Napoleon. Westward expansion became the new buzzword and explorers like Lewis and Clarke opened the route for trappers and hunters to move towards the Pacific coastline. The War of 1812, when the British succeeded in razing Washington DC but were subsequently defeated opened the floodgates of an extermination drive against the Native American tribes. Manifest Destiny, the quasi-religious belief that it was the white settlers duty to establish themselves across the country further fuelled the diaspora and hastened the annihilation of the Native Americans.

During the early part of the 19th century, the divided North and South of the country coexisted unhappily --the North, more prosperous and urbanised and anti-slavery while the rural South remained less developed and totally dependent on slave labor to run the plantation based economy. In 1860, the election of President Lincoln, an anti-slavery advocate saw the Union splitting up - the bitter, bloody Civil war that followed continued for four long years before the North could overcome the South.

The period following the Civil War in the latter half of the 19th century was a major transition phase -Industrial Revolution in the North, Reconstruction in the South and tremendous waves of immigrants from Europe and Asia descended on this nascent country. This was also the time Alaska and Hawaii became part of the U.S, the former purchased from the Russian and the latter, brazenly annexed by White American businessmen. "Robber Barons", the rich, powerful, manipulative and unscrupulous businessmen, financiers and industrialists established their personal empires during this period, using ill-paid workers. However, the success of the Industrial Revolution prompted USA to acquire colonies in the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico and to take part in World War I.

By the 1920s, a lot had transpired in USA - workers and women's rights, powered flight and motorcars and Prohibition were the raging issues and events of the day. The US had become the world's major producer of manufactured goods -however, the Wall Street Crash on October 24, 1929, heralded the Great Depression, which saw massive unemployment and decay in cities across the country. In 1932, President Roosevelt's New Deal began the process of revitalising the economy and by World War II, the US was back on its feet. Initially America stayed out of the War but after Japan's strike at Pearl Harbor in 1941, America became actively involved, dropping two atomic bombs in Japan, which established forever America's position as a nuclear power. The 1950s also heralded a glorious period for USA economically - not ravaged by war as Europe and East Asia, industrialisation carried on full steam in the country.

However, over the next few decades, the Cold War between the two ideologically opposed nuclear powers USA and Soviet Union heightened anti-communist feelings spurring McCarthy's communist witch-hunt in the country and disastrous involvement in the Korean War (1950-53) and the Vietnam War against communist forces. Around the same time, the civil rights and the suffragette movement gained momentum, the former leading to several violent race riots and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

From the 1970s to 1990s, under presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, the US further consolidated its supremacy as the premier world power, taking in her stride the oil crisis in the early 70s, the Iran hostage crisis, Iran-Contra affair, the war in Kuwait with Iran, and the breakup of the Soviet bloc. With Bill Clinton's election, 12 years of Republican rule ended and the Democrats were in the hot seat -- literally too hot at times like the Whitewater real estate scam and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Today we have Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States at the helm.


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