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  Wikipedia: History of the United States

Wikipedia: History of the United States
History of the United States
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 This article forms the top level of the
History of the United States series.
 Colonial America  (1493-1776)
 History of the United States (1776-1861)
 The coming of the Civil War
 The Civil War
 History of the United States (1865-1918)
 History of the United States (1918-1945)
 History of the United States (1945-1964)
 History of the United States (1964-1980)
 History of the United States (1980-1988)
 History of the United States (1988-present)
 Military history of the United States

Pre-Colonial America

See Native American article.

Native Americans arrived on the North American continent in about 8,000 BC, give or take 5,000 years, and dominated the area until the influx of European settlers began in the early 17th century.

Colonial America (1493-1776)

For details, see the main Colonial America article.

Colonial America was defined by ongoing battles with Native Americans, a severe labor shortage which birthed slavery and indentured servitude and a British policy of benign neglect which permitted the development of an American spirit and culture which was distinct from that its English founders.

History of the United States (1776-1861)

For details, see the main History of the United States (1776-1861) article.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 gave Western farmers use of the important Mississippi River waterway, removed the French presence from the western border of the United States, and provided U.S. farmers with vast expanses of land.

A few weeks afterwards, war broke out between Britain and Napoleonic France. The United States, dependent on European revenues from the export of agricultural goods, tried to export food and raw materials to both warring great powers and to profit off transporting goods between their home markets and Caribbean colonies. Both sides permitted this trade when it benefited them, but opposed it when it did not.

Following the 1805 destruction of the French navy at the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain sought to impose a stranglehold over French overseas trade ties. Thus, in retaliation against U.S. trade practices, Britain imposed a loose blockade of the American coast.

Believing that Britain could rely no other source of food other than the United States, Congress and President Jefferson suspended all U.S. trade with foreign nations in 1807, hoping to get the British to end their blockade of the American coast. The embargo, however, devastated American agricultural exports while Britain found other sources of food.

Under the pretext of opposing British interference with American shipping, and British aid to Native Americans in Canada and west of the Mississippi, Congress - led by Southern and Western Jeffersonians - declared war on Britain in 1812. Westerners and Southerners were the most ardent supporters of the war, given their concerns about expanding settlement in Native American lands beyond the Mississippi and access to world markets for their agricultural exports. The New England Federalists opposed the war. Their reputation would suffer in the aftermath of the U.S. victory, causing the party to fade away.

The United States prevailed in the War of 1812 after bitter fighting, which lasted until January 8, 1815 (ironically after the peace treaty) on many fronts. The Treaty of Ghent officially ended the war.

After Napoleon's defeat and the Congress of Vienna in 1815, an era of relative stability began in Europe. U.S. leaders paid less attention to European trade and conflict, and more to the internal development in North America. With the end of the wartime British alliance with Native Americans east of the Mississippi River, white settlers were determined to colonize indigenous lands beyond the Mississippi. In the 1830s the federal government forcibly deported the Southeastern tribes to less fertile territories to the west.

Americans did not question their right to colonize vast expanses of North America beyond their country's borders, especially into Oregon, California, and Texas. By the mid-1840s U.S. expansionism was articulated in terms of the ideology of "manifest destiny."

In May 1846 Congress declared war on Mexico. The U.S. defeated Mexico, unable to withstand the assault of the American artillery, short on resources, and plagued by a divided command. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 ceded Texas (with the Rio Grande boundary), California, and New Mexico to the United States. In the next thirteen years, the territories ceded by Mexico became the focal point of sectional tensions over the expansion of slavery.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) and its origins

For details, see Origins of the American Civil War, Civil War and Reconstruction articles.

With two fundamentally different labor systems at their base (the slave plantation system in the South and wage-labor industrial capitalism in the North), the two regions had developed two starkly different societies. Divergent economic, political, and cultural outlooks gradually fed sectional tensions.

Immigration from Northern and Western Europe was encouraged, satisfying the demand for a steady flow of cheap labor for Northern industry. Working class immigrants - often Irish Catholics subject to harsh discrimination - built up the country's railroads and factory system. However, few immigrants settled in the agrarian South, where manufactured goods were mostly imported.

The profitability of cotton, or "King Cotton," as it was touted, solidified the South's dependence on the plantation system and its foundation: slave labor. A small class of slave barons, especially cotton planters, dominated the politics and society of the South. While the South's economy was based on slave labor, the Northeast was an emerging industrial society.

The Republican Party was established in 1854. The new party oppossed the expansion of slavery in the Western territories. Although only a small share of Northerners favored measures to abolish slavery in the South, the Republicans were able to mobilize popular support among Northerners and Westerns who did not want to compete against slave labor if system expanded beyond the South. The Republicans won the support of many ex-Whigs and ex-Democrats in the North and Northwest concerned about the South's disproportionate influence in the Senate, Buchanan administration, and Supreme Court.

After the election of Abraham Lincoln, eleven Southern states seceded from the union between late 1860 and 1861, establishing a rebel government, the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861. The Civil War began when Confederate General Pierre Beauregard opened fire upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.

The war ended with union victory on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia after leaving roughly 650,000 dead. In the aftermath of the war, the United States was left to determine the status of roughly four million former African American slaves and to reintegrate the eleven Confederate states into the Union.

History of the United States (1865-1918)

For details, see the main History of the United States (1865-1918) article.

The United States began its rise to international power in this period. A ceaseless flood of European immigrants and the development of an industrial base the likes of which the world had not yet seen.

Interwar America and World War II

For details, see the main History of the United States (1918-1945) article.

The Allied Powers imposed severe economic penalties on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. Despite President Woodrow Wilson's calls for agreeable terms, the economic impact of the reparations mandated by the Treaty were severe. The misery they helped produce in Germany helped Adolf Hitler to seize power in Germany in 1933. The United States Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles; instead, the United States signed separate peace treaties with Germany and her allies.

Disillusioned by the failure of the war to achieve the high ideals promised by President Woodrow Wilson, the American people chose isolationism: they turned their attention inward, away from international relations and solely toward domestic affairs.

During most of the 1920s the United States enjoyed a period of unbalanced prosperity: prices for agricultural commodities and wages fell at the end of the war while new industries (radio, movies, automobiles, and chemicals) flourished. The unevenness was also geographic: the standard of living in rural areas fell increasingly behind that of urban and suburban areas which saw dramatic improvements in housing and urban planning. The boom was reflected by the extension of credit to a dangerous degree, including in the Stock Market, which rose to dangerously inflated levels.

In 1920, the manufacture, sale, import and export of alcohol was prohibited by an amendment to the constitution in order to alleviate various social problems. It was enacted through the Volstead Act. Prohibition ended in 1933 by another change to the constitution; it is considered to have been a failure by most: consumption of alcohol did not decrease markedly while organized crime was strengthened. But it did represent the first instance of a constitutional amendment that directly regulated social activity. The 18th Amendment, then, represented the growing strength of the state in the early 20th century.

The Stock Market crash in 1929 and the ensuing economic depression have been endlessly debated, often along ideological lines. The limited amount of reliable economic information suggests that construction and housing stagnated after 1926, joining declines in the agriculture, mining, and petroleum industries. In all of these overproduction dragged down prices and profits. Wages did not rise fast enough to enable consumers to purchase all the new homes and home products available. Foreign trade was constrained by growing protectionism in the industrialized world. The Stock Market crash drained away remaining consumer confidence and, more importantly, the confidence of financial institutions. They were extremely reluctant to invest. Thus, the economy sank into a severe depression, referred to by Americans as the "Great Depression", marked by punishing levels of unemployment, negligible investment, and falling prices and wages.

In response to the depression, Congress and the Hoover administration enacted a somewhat isolationist Smoot-Hawley tariff and, with its public works acts, tried to fix prices for farmers, and enacted a public works program based on the belief that the federal government was obliged to maintain high employment levels. These efforts were unprecedented, but the Depression overwhelmed them: indices of prices, profits, production, and unemployment worsened.

With millions unemployed, political ferment and discontent greatly increased among the working classes. An unsympathetic or repressive response from the U.S. government might well have sparked a Socialist uprising, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1932, implemented a number of programs to aid the poor and unemployed. He also contributed to the future stability of the economy by instituting new regulations in business, particularly banking. Over the past twenty years, historians have de-emphasized the "revolutionary" legislation of the Roosevelt administration, seeing instead a logical, and even conservative, outgrowth of Hoover administration policies.

The recovery, however, was very slow. The nadir of the Great Depression was in 1933, but the economy showed very little improvement through the end of the decade, and remained grim until it was dramatically reshaped through America's involvement in World War II.

Isolationist sentiment in America had ebbed, but the United States at first declined to enter the war, limiting itself to giving supplies and weapons to Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. American feeling changed drastically with the sudden Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the United States quickly joined the British-Soviet alliance against Japan, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany, known as the "Axis Alliance". Even with American participation, it took nearly four more years to defeat Germany and Japan. Though the Soviet Union suffered far more casualties than its allies, America's active involvement in the war was vital to preventing an eventual Axis victory.

After the second world war, America experienced a period of great economic growth characterized by the growth of suburban housing, etc. The United States financed the reconstruction of Germany and Japan and eventually turned the former foes into allies.

History of the United States (1945-1964)

For details, see the main History of the United States (1945-1964) article.

The post-war era in the United States was defined by the ever more challenging Cold War, the arms race and the space race. Meanwhile, the American people completed their great migration from the farms into the cities, began shifting the economy from an industrial base to a service economy, and enjoyed the prosperity of triumphalist America, all while the sowing within themselves the seeds of the discontent that would flower into the social revolution of the late 1960s.

History of the United States (1964-1980)

For details, see the main History of the United States (1964-1980) article.

As the Cold War dragged on, the United States entered a very hot war in Vietnam, found itself fragmenting socially as women, minorities and young people rebelled against the status quo, and therein faced its greatest crisis since the Civil War. And then suddenly, it was all over and the country found itself in the doldrums of the 1970s, battling stagflation, Watergate and the first appearances of international terrorism.

Contemporary United States History (1980-present)

For details, see the main History of the United States (1980-present) article.

As the Soviet Union collapsed and the Eastern bloc shattered, the wealth of the United States grew to unprecedented proportions, as did its debt and international entanglements. Social change continued, albeit more slowly than in the '60s, as the baby boomers put the finishing touches on their revolution. And as the 21st century was born, the United States came to realize that its Cold War victory was anything but the end of history, as battling international terrorism, at home and abroad, became the country's newest raison d'Ítre.

See also


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona