A Very Brief History of the USA
- Movies and media have surely meant that the history of the USA is better known internationally than almost any other country.
- Its uncertain when and how the first peoples arrived in the Americas, but it's thought that they came across the land bridge from Siberia around 15,000 BC and migrations followed south, in waves. Numerous indigenous cultures formed,
- The Americas were visited by the Vikings, but European colonization of the Americas began in the late fifteenth century, after the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492. By the 1760s, the thirteen British colonies, along the Atlantic Coast, contained 2.5 million people. The Southern Colonies built an agricultural system on slave labour, importing slaves from Africa for this purpose.
- However, the British government got too heavy handed, imposing a series of taxes that were deemed punitive. resistance culminated in the Boston Tea Party in 1773, and armed conflict. France and Spain, both smarting from British defeats, supported the revolution, led by George Washington. with Alexander Hamilton as his chief adviser. Purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, in 1803, doubled the size of the United States.
- Westward expansion followed, driven by a quest for inexpensive land for yeoman farmers and slave owners. The corresponding expansion of slavery was increasingly controversial. Slavery was abolished in all states north of the Mason–Dixon line (mainly along the Pennsylvania border) by 1804, but states in the south continued slavery, arguing that it was necessary for their large scale agriculture, to support the kinds of large scale agriculture that dominated the southern economy.
- Abraham Lincoln became president in 1860 and Civil War followed, as the southern states seceded from the Union, to form their own pro-slavery country, the Confederate States of America. It was a bloody war. The defeat of the Confederates in 1865 led to the abolition of slavery, although equality for all races was much slower to follow.
- The United States gradually expanded its territory and evolved into the world's leading industrial power at the turn of the 20th century, supported by mass immigration and a a national railroad network.
Facts and Factoids
- There are now 50 states in the USA - Alaska and Hawaii are both separated from the main part of the country
- The USA is the fourth largest country in the world by land area and the third by population.
- The USA has the world's largest economy
- The most populated city in the USA is New York City, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago.
- The capital of the USA is Washington D.C. (it has its own district so it doesn't belong to any state)
- English is the most commonly spoken language in the USA, followed by Spanish.
- The USA consumes more petroleum than any other country in the world.
- The American flag is one of the most recognizable in the world. Nicknames for the flag include the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, and The Star-Spangled Banner. Since its origin, in 1777, the American flag has been revised over two dozen times. The first version had 13 stripes, for the original 13 states and a small square British Union flag. This Grand Union flag, closely resembled the flag of the British East India Company but not all sources agree that this was its inspiration. Tweaks were made, over the years, as the Union Jack was replaced by stars for the states and additional states were added. in varying designs. The current 50-star American flag was designed by 17-year-old Robert Heft as a school project in 1958. He got a B-, but his teacher told him that if it won the national competition for the new flag design, then he would upgrade to an A. and that's what he had to do.
- Uncle Sam (same initials as United States) is a common symbol for the U.S. government. He appeared in World War I recruiting posters (based on the original British Lord Kitchener poster of three years earlier). He appeared during the War of 1812, but his actual origins are obscure.
- While the figure of Uncle Sam specifically represents the government, the female figure of Columbia (after Columbus) represents the United States as a nation. An archaic character, Brother Jonathan (from New England), was also used to represent the American populace, but seems to have merged into Uncle Sam
What To Do in the USA
- The USA is a great, diverse and easy country to travel in: car, plane, train, bike, horse
- Accommodation is easy to find, if not always cheap
- Good food is sometimes harder to track down. Outside California and cities like New York and Seattle and San Francisco, where there are good (if expensive) restaurants, it's burgers, burgers and burgers....
- The scenery is amazing, the national parks endlessly surprising: