A brief history of the United States of America

The United States is a relatively young country having only officially come into existence in 1776, but the land itself was home to people long before the arrival of the European settlers and the founding fathers.

It is thought that the first modern humans arrived in America over 30,000 years ago and it’s commonly thought that the first people emigrated there from Eurasia by crossing the now long lost land bridge between Siberia and Alaska. The migrations are thought to have ended 10,000 years ago with the people diversifying into thousands of different tribes and nations. Not much is known of this period due to the lack of written records but it is believed that the first modern Europeans to reach the land were Viking explorers under the command of Erik the Red in 1001.

It wasn’t until after the famous voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492 that Europeans began to arrive in large numbers to colonise and explore this ‘New world’. The Spanish were the first to arrive colonising Florida in 1513 and exploring as far inland as the Grand Canyon and Mississippi River. It was Spanish settlers that created the first permanent settlement in the continental United States at St.Augustine in 1565.

The Dutch, French and English arrived in the 17th century with a Dutch colony establishing the settlement of New Amsterdam, a city destined to become today’s New York City. The French colonised land in Canada and along the present day US border founding Quebec and Acadia. The English colonised the Eastern seaboard creating New England, the first successful colony being James Town in 1607. Unfortunately peace between the Native American Indians and the European settlers was rare, countless wars and conflicts were fought between them as well as the wars between the major European powers.  In the 1700’s war between France and Britain ended in a British victory with the French being ousted from the North and holding only the territory of Louisiana in the South.

The British thirteen colonies’s emerged as the main power in the land  but neglect by the British government, the imposition of taxes and the decision not to grant the colony’s a voice in parliament paved the way to the revolutionary war. In 1776 on the fourth of July the second Continental congress declared the independence of the United States of America, the war for independence had begun.

The French, Spanish and Dutch threw their support to the revolutionaries, balancing the military strength of both sides. The war reached far beyond the Americas with the British forced to fight in theatres all over the world to stave off attacks from its enemies. Because of this distraction the Revolutionary’s under the command of George Washington were able to soundly defeat the British army’s sent against them, culminating in the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781. The revolutionary war officially ended in 1783 with the treaty of Paris.

The next few decades saw the Americans spread westwards taking lands from the native Indians and claiming them for their own.  The nation went to war with Britain again in 1812 and attempted to invade Canada but was easily routed. The British army invaded the US sacking and burning Washington DC before being defeated in its attempts to capture New York, Baltimore and New Orleans. When the war ended both sides agreed to a truce and good relations were restored.  The US went on –to capture the lands of California and Texas in a conflict with Mexico and by the mid 1800s the modern shape of the USA was formed.

The darkest period in American history occurred in 1861 when the nation was ripped in two by civil war. The conflict was fought over slavery with the north anti and the south pro. The war raged on for four years before ending in 1865. The anti-slavery Unionist forces of Abraham Lincoln emerged victorious. After the war a major reconstruction effort began and within a few decades the USA had become a leading power.

It became a global superpower after intervening in both World Wars and by profiting from the vast demand for materials from the devastated nations of Europe and Asia and taking advantage of the weakened state of the British Empire. The nations influence spread across the globe, they led the western nations through the dangers of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, until today it is the world’s only superpower.