Ap Us History Ch. 1 Notes

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A.P. U.S. History Notes

Chapter 1: “New World Beginnings”

225 million years ago, Earth was one supercontinent (Pangaea) and ocean. About 10 million years ago, the North America that we know today was formed (geographical shape). The first discoverers of North America were nomadic Asians who wandered over here by way of an exposed land bridge from Russia to Alaska during the Ice Age. Though they were hunters at first, by 5000 BC, they had become hunter-gatherers with a diet of basically corn. Great pre-European Indian cultures included the Pueblos, the Iroquois, the Mound Builders, the Mayans, the Incas, the Aztec, and the Sioux, among others (map of tribes on pg. 8). The Indians revered nature and land, and didn’t carelessly destroy it. Everything was put to use.

In 1000 AD, Vikings discovered Newfoundland, but later abandoned it due to unfavorable conditions. Europeans, though, slowly began to proliferate into non-European worlds starting around the 1400s. After Marco Polo came back with stories of China and its riches, Europeans began to explore. First, they set up settlements in Africa, near the coast, where they used African slaves to work on plantations. In 1498, Vasco da Gama reached India, opening a sea route to the Far East.

Complications and dangers of this eastern sea route influenced Christopher Columbus to sail west. In doing so, he inadvertently discovered the Americas, though he never knew it. The Portuguese were first to settle in America, but the Spanish later became the dominant nation in the Americas. Spanish Conquistadores swept through Latin and South America, destroying the Aztecs and the Incas. Meanwhile, Magellan’s crew sailed around the world in 1519, becoming the first voyage to do so. As the chapter ended, Spain was very much in control of much of the Americas, though other countries were beginning to challenge the Spanish dominance.

Important People:

The Aztecs-

Native Americans who that lived in what is now Mexico and routinely offered their gods human sacrifices, these people were violent, yet built amazing pyramids and built a great civilization without having a wheel.

The Mound Builders-

Indians of the Ohio River Valley.

The Mississippian settlement-

At Cahokia, near present-day East St. Louis, Illionis, was home to about 40,000 people in at 1100 A.D.


This was legendary leader who inspired the Iroquois, a powerful group of Native Americans in the northeaster woodlands of the U.S.

The Norse-

These Vikings discovered America in about 1000 A.D., when they discovered modern-day Newfoundland. They abandoned it later due to bad conditions.

Marco Polo-

Italian adventurer who supposedly sailed to the Far East (China) in 1295 and returned with stories and supplies of the Asian life there (silk, pearls, etc…)

Bartholomeu Días-

A Portuguese sailor, he was the first to round the southernmost tip of Africa, a feat he did in 1488.

Vasco da Gama-

In 1498, he reached India and returned home with a small but tantalizing cargo of jewels and spices. Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile-
The wedded king and queen of Spain, their marriage united the previously non-existing country.

Christopher Columbus-

An Italian seafarer who persuaded Spain to give him three ships for which to sail west to look for a better route to India, he “discovered” America in 1492

Vasco Nuñez Balboa-

Discoverer of the Pacific Ocean in 1513.

Ferdinand Magellan-

In 1519, his crew began a voyage and eventually ended up becoming the first to circumnavigate the world, even though he died in the Philippines. The sole surviving ship returned to Europe in 1522.

Ponce de León-

In 1513 and 1521, this Spanish Explorer explored Florida, searching for gold (contrary to the myth of his seeking the “Fountain of Youth”).

Francisco Coronado-

From 1540 to 1542, he explored the pueblos of Arizona and New Mexico,...
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