U.S. History ushistory.org Homepage
From Pre-Columbian to the New Millennium
The word history comes from the Greek word historía which means "to learn or know by inquiry." In the pieces that follow, we encourage you to probe, dispute, dig deeper — inquire. History is not static. It's fluid. It changes and grows and becomes richer and more complex when any individual interacts with it.
Knowledge of history is empowering. An event is but the furthest ripple of an ever-expanding wave that may have started eddying outward hundreds of years ago. One who "sees" history is able to harness the power of that wave's entire journey.
Finally, the best history has at its foundation a story. A printer challenges a King and so is laid the foundation of the first amendment; a New Jersey miner finds gold in California and sets off a torrent of movement westward; a woman going home from work does not relinquish her seat and a Civil Rights movement explodes.
These stories all help to ask the question, "What is an American?" You'll help to answer that question.
Native American Society on the Eve of British Colonization
Diversity of Native American Groups
The Algonkian Tribes
The Iroquois Tribes
Britain in the New World
Early Ventures Fail
Jamestown Settlement and the "Starving Time"
The Growth of the Tobacco Trade
War and Peace with Powhatan's People
The House of Burgesses
The New England Colonies
The Mayflower and Plymouth Colony
William Bradford and the First Thanksgiving
Massachusetts Bay — "The City Upon a Hill"
Dissent in Massachusetts Bay
Reaching to Connecticut
Witchcraft in Salem
The Middle Colonies
New Netherland to New York
Quakers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
City of Brotherly Love — Philadelphia
The Ideas of Benjamin Franklin
The Southern Colonies
Maryland — The Catholic Experiment
Creating the Carolinas
Debtors in Georgia
Life in the Plantation South
African Americans in the British New World
West African Society at the Point of European Contact
"The Middle Passage"
The Growth of Slavery
Slave Life on the Farm and in the Town
Free African Americans in the Colonial Era
A New African-American Culture
The Beginnings of Revolutionary Thinking
The Impact of Enlightenment in Europe
The Great Awakening
The Trial of John Peter Zenger
A Tradition of Rebellion
"What Is the American?"
America's Place in the Global Struggle
The French and Indian War
George Washington's Background and Experience
The Treaty of Paris (1763) and Its Impact
The Events Leading to Independence
The Royal Proclamation of 1763
The Stamp Act Controversy
The Boston Patriots
The Townshend Acts
The Boston Massacre
The Tea Act and Tea Parties
The Intolerable Acts
E Pluribus Unum
Stamp Act Congress
Sons and Daughters of Liberty
Committees of Correspondence
First Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
Thomas Paine's Common Sense
The Declaration of Independence
The American Revolution
American and British Strengths and Weaknesses
Loyalists, Fence-sitters, and Patriots
Lexington and Concord
The Revolution on the Home Front
Washington at Valley Forge
The Battle of Saratoga
The French Alliance
Yorktown and the Treaty of Paris
Societal Impacts of the American Revolution
The Impact of Slavery
A Revolution in Social Law
When Does the Revolution End?
The Declaration of Independence and Its Legacy
The War Experience: Soldiers, Officers, and Civilians
Revolutionary Changes and Limitations: Slavery
Revolutionary Changes and Limitations: Women
Revolutionary Limits: Native Americans
Revolutionary Achievement: Yeomen and Artisans
The Age of Atlantic Revolutions
Articles of Confederation
Evaluating the Congress
The Economic Crisis of the 1780s...
Links: "American history" redirects here. For the history of the continents, see History of the Americas.
When to date the start of the history of the United States is debated among historians. Older textbooks start with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and emphasize the European background, or they start in 1600 and emphasize the American frontier. In recent decades American schools and universities typically have shifted back in time to include more on the colonial period and much more on the prehistory of the Native peoples.
Indigenous peoples lived in what is now the United States for thousands of years and developed complex cultures before European colonists began to arrive, mostly from England, after 1600. The Spanish had small settlements in Florida and the Southwest, and the French along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. By the 1770s, thirteen British colonies contained two and a half million people along the Atlantic coast east of the Appalachian Mountains. In the 1760s British government imposed a series of new taxes while rejecting the American argument that any new taxes had to be approved by the people. Tax resistance, especially the Boston Tea Party (1774), led to punitive laws (the Intolerable Acts) by Parliament designed to end self-government in Massachusetts. American Patriots (as they were called at the time as a term of ridicule) adhered to a political ideology called republicanism that emphasized civic duty, virtue, and opposition to corruption, fancy luxuries and aristocracy.
All thirteen colonies united in a Congress that called on the colonies to write new state constitutions. After armed conflict began in Massachusetts, Patriots drove the royal officials out of every colony and assembled in mass meetings and conventions. Those Patriot governments in the colonies then unanimously empowered their delegates to Congress to declare independence. In 1776, Congress created an independent nation, the United States of America. With large-scale military and financial support from France and military leadership by General George Washington, the American Patriots won the Revolutionary War. The peace treaty of 1783 gave the new nation the land east of the Mississippi River (except Florida and Canada). The central government established by the Articles of Confederation proved ineffectual at providing stability, as it had no authority to collect taxes and had no executive officer. Congress called a convention to meet secretly in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation. It wrote a a new Constitution, which was adopted in 1789. In 1791, a Bill of Rights was added to guarantee inalienable rights. With Washington as the Union 's first president and Alexander Hamilton his chief political and financial adviser, a strong central government was created. When Thomas Jefferson became president he purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, doubling the size of the US. A second and last war with Britain was fought in 1812.
Encouraged by the notion of Manifest Destiny, federal territory expanded all the way to the Pacific. The expansion was driven by a quest for inexpensive land for yeoman farmers and slave owners. The expansion of slavery was increasingly controversial and fueled political and constitutional battles, which were resolved by compromises. Slavery was abolished in all states north of the Mason–Dixon line by 1804, but the South continued to profit off the institution, producing high-value cotton exports to feed increasing high demand in Europe. The 1860 presidential election of Republican Abraham Lincoln was on a platform of ending the expansion of slavery and putting it on a path to extinction. Seven cotton-based deep South slave states seceded and later founded the Confederacy months before Lincoln 's inauguration. No nation ever recognized the Confederacy, but it opened the war by attacking Fort Sumter in 1861. A surge of nationalist outrage in the North fueled a long, intense American Civil War (1861-1865). It was fought largely in the South as the overwhelming material and manpower advantages of the North proved decisive in a long war. The war 's result was restoration of the Union, the impoverishment of the South, and the abolition of slavery. In the Reconstruction era (1863–1877), legal and voting rights were extended to the freed slave. The national government emerged much stronger, and because of the Fourteenth Amendment, it gained the explicit duty to protect individual rights. However, when white Democrats regained their power in the South during the 1870s, often by paramilitary suppression of voting, they passed Jim Crow laws to maintain white supremacy, and new disfranchising constitutions that prevented most African Americans and many poor whites from voting, a situation that continued for decades until gains of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and passage of federal legislation to enforce constitutional rights.
The United States became the world 's leading industrial power at the turn of the 20th century due to an outburst of entrepreneurship in the Northeast and Midwest and the arrival of millions of immigrant workers and farmers from Europe. The national railroad network was completed with the work of Chinese immigrants and large-scale mining and factories industrialized the Northeast and Midwest. Mass dissatisfaction with corruption, inefficiency and traditional politics stimulated the Progressive movement, from the 1890s to 1920s, which led to many social and political reforms. In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed women 's suffrage (right to vote). This followed the 16th and 17th amendments in 1913, which established the first national income tax and direct election of US senators to Congress. Initially neutral during World War I, the US declared war on Germany in 1917 and later funded the Allied victory the following year. After a prosperous decade in the 1920s, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 marked the onset of the decade-long world-wide Great Depression. Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt ended the Republican dominance of the White House and implemented his New Deal programs for relief, recovery, and reform. The New Deal, which defined modern American liberalism, included relief for the unemployed, support for farmers, Social Security and a minimum wage. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States later entered World War II along with Britain, the Soviet Union, and the smaller Allies. The U.S. financed the Allied war effort and helped defeat Nazi Germany in Europe and defeated Imperial Japan in the Pacific War by detonating newly invented atomic bombs on enemy targets.
The United States and the Soviet Union emerged as rival superpowers after World War II. During the Cold War, the US and the USSR confronted each other indirectly in the arms race, the Space Race, proxy wars, and propaganda campaigns. US foreign policy during the Cold War was built around the support of Western Europe and Japan along with the policy of "containment" or stopping the spread of communism. The US joined the wars in Korea and Vietnam to try to stop its spread. In the 1960s, in large part due to the strength of the civil rights movement, another wave of social reforms were enacted by enforcing the constitutional rights of voting and freedom of movement to African-Americans and other racial minorities. Native American activism also rose. The Cold War ended when the Soviet Union officially dissolved in 1991, leaving the United States as the world 's only superpower. As the 21st century began, international conflict centered around the Middle East following the September 11 attacks by Al-Qaeda on the United States in 2001. In 2008, the United States had its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, which has been followed by slower than usual rates of economic growth during the 2010s
Please join StudyMode to read the full document